The state of Wisconsin, famous for its cheese, lost 10 percent of its dairy farms in 2019, Dairy Herd Management reported on Thursday. The loss of 818 dairies was the largest decline in Wisconsin history.
Trouble for dairy farmers started in 2018, when Donald Trump engaged in a protracted trade war with China. In retaliation for increased tariffs from the United States, China placed tariffs on a number of U.S. agricultural exports.
As a result, exports of U.S. dairy to China dropped by more than 50 percent in 2019, according to CNBC.
The Trump administration rolled out a multibillion dollar bailout for farmers as the trade war dragged on, promising to make up for the financial damage caused by Trump’s policies.
However, milk producers say the aid is not enough.
Paul Bleiberg, vice president of government relations at the National Milk Producers Federation, told CNBC that the bailout “fell short of where the damages were.” The comments mirrored a statement made in late 2018 by Jim Malhern, president of the National Milk Producers Federation.
“This [bailout] was supposed to make sure farmers were not the victims of this trade policy,” Malhern told the New York Times. “I think most agriculture producers feel that the payments have not come close to making up for the damage for the tariffs.”
According to Dairy Herd Management, the rate of dairy farmer loss in Wisconsin “has more than doubled in the last few years.”
Democratic leaders were quick to call out Trump’s role in exacerbating problems in the dairy industry.
“We have a genuine dairy farm crisis, and Trump is making it worse,” Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, wrote on social media on Friday.
“These family farms are the lifeblood of so many of Wisconsin’s local economies who are now suffering because of Trump’s broken promises to have their backs,” Philip Shulman, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said in an emailed statement. “Instead of trying to buy them off with bailouts, he should wake up to the reality thousands of other farmers across our state are facing.”
More broadly than dairy farmers, the rate of farm bankruptcies has dramatically increased during Trump’s tenure. An August 2019 analysis showed farm bankruptcies in the midwest have increased by 45 percent since Trump started his trade war with China.
“Trump has repeatedly broken his promise to look out for the dairy industry,” Maddie McComb, spokesperson for the DNC, said in a statement. “Now farmers are paying the price as over 800 farms closed last year in Wisconsin and thousands more struggle to make ends meet under Trump’s watch. It’s clear that the crisis facing American farmers is escalating and the best solution is to defeat Trump in November.”
Trump narrowly carried Wisconsin in the 2016 election, edging out Hillary Clinton by less than 25,000 votes out of a total of 2.8 million votes cast.
Democrats are hoping to win the state in 2020, and will host the party’s July national nominating convention in Milwaukee.
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Philip Shulman’s name. A previous version of this story referred to him as Phillip Shulman.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
IMAGE: Photo by Elvis Kennedy