National Coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal Responds to Secretary Perdue’s Comments at Dairy Expo: ‘Bigger Ain’t Always Better’


October 3, 2019

National Coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal Responds to Secretary Perdue’s Comments at Dairy Expo: ‘Bigger Ain’t Always Better’

Perdue’s ‘the big get bigger and the small go out’ comment exemplifies the failure of current agriculture policies that prop up industrial agribusiness and leave America’s family farms behind, group says.


Katherine Paul, Regeneration International:, (207) 653-3090

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A coalition representing more than 10,000 U.S. farmers and ranchers responded today to a comment made by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to reporters following an appearance at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisc. Perdue told reporters:

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”

“The situation described by Secretary Perdue did not come about by accident. It’s the direct result of corporate agribusiness lobbying to tip the policy scales in favor of a few big corporations, to the detriment of America’s small and mid-sized independent farmers,” said Ronnie Cummins, co-founder of Regeneration International, which helped organize the farmer and rancher coalition. “The result is that today’s food and farming policies make it nearly impossible for America’s farmers and ranchers to compete in the marketplace. Those policies have also brought us degraded soils, polluted waterways and unhealthy food. The Green New Deal provides a roadmap for reversing this destructive policy trend, but only if organic and regenerative farmers have a seat at the policymaking table.” 

“Mr. Perdue and I are both Georgia farmers of the same generation. I do not share the secretary’s perspective on size, but we are in agreement that there should never be a guaranteed income or profitability,” said Will Harris, coalition co-chair and owner of White Oaks Pastures in Bluffton, Ga. “My farm, which employs 165 people full-time, is the largest private employer in our county. We are operating on the higher end of the scale of efficiency for a regenerative and humane farm. Unlike factory farm operations, farms like mine aren’t highly scalable. But they are replicable. If we had one or two or three farms like White Oak Pastures in every agricultural county in the U.S., we’d turn a lot of decaying ghost towns into thriving communities—and we’d have cleaner water, healthier soils and less CO2 in the atmosphere. Bigger ain’t always better.”

“U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s recent statement regarding agriculture exemplifies what we have seen for decades. The majority of agriculture policies disregard the importance and need for small farms and businesses in the U.S.,” said Sherri Dugger, coalition co-chair and executive director of coalition member organization, Women, Food & Agriculture Network. “We need systems in place that offer equal access to markets, fair prices, truth in labeling and representation at all levels of government for all farmers. We need legislation that promotes a just and ecological agricultural and food system, and we need it now.”

“It was Sonny Perdue’s predecessor, Earl Butz, who sent us down this disastrous road of ‘get big or get out,’” said Suzan Erem, executive director of coalition organization member, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust. “Policy, not the market, put the thumb on the scale for Big Ag. Now, instead of farmer-neighbors being accountable to the communities where they live and work, we have corporations running roughshod over the last farmers left standing, wrecking our land, air and water and starving our rural communities. Small farms answer to their customers and their communities. They create jobs, don’t destroy them. The question isn’t whether or not small farms will survive in this ‘market’ our government policy created. The question is what will our government do to protect and support them?”

“Mr. Perdue’s comment is an affront to American family farms and farmers, the rural communities they live in and support and the American consumers who support these farmers,” said Carrie Balkcom, executive director of the American Grassfed Association, a coalition member. “Small farms need access to markets and support from the governmental agency created to support agriculture, not agribusiness.”

“Our family farms are under tremendous financial stress. Secretary Perdue’s dismissive attitude is very disturbing, although not surprising as politicians from both sides of the aisle have done little to support farmers,” said Patti Naylor, Iowa farmer and board member of Family Farm Defenders, a coalition member. “Continuing low prices are causing farmers to make the heartbreaking decision to give up their dairy cows while giant CAFOs grow. To address the multiple environmental and social crises this world is facing, including climate change, we need more family farms, not fewer. And, we need to get livestock back onto farms with pastures and diverse crop rotations. We can do this through the Green New Deal by including policy from the original New Deal—a parity system of price floors, supply management, and food reserves. Our future depends on it.”

“As usual, Secretary Perdue confuses size with health. Just like a healthy soil, a healthy economy is one based on diversity and complexity, not one based on simplicity and vulnerability,” said Dave Chapman, a Vermont farmer and executive director of the Real Organic Project, a coalition member. “In his effort to support the few who profit from an increasingly fragile system, Perdue is putting us all at risk. We need to build agricultural systems that are resilient, not brittle. He just doesn’t understand.”

U.S. Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal, a joint organizing effort of Regeneration International (RI) and the Sunrise Movement, was officially launched last month at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The coalition advocates for a massive overhaul of U.S. food and farming policy, believing that Green New Deal’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2030 is achievable, but only if the resolution includes policies that spur two large-scale transitions: the transition to renewable energy alternatives, and the transition to regenerative agriculture and land-use practices.

The coalition’s Congressional Advisory Committee members are: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

The coalition is committed to working with Congress to ensure that farmers and ranchers have a seat at the table when it comes to defining and finalizing the specific policies and programs that will form the basis for achieving the goals outlined in the Green New Deal Resolution.

Letter to Congress

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal policy goals


Regeneration International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to promoting, facilitating and accelerating the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems. Visit