WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Antonio Delgado says he represents the eighth most rural congressional district in the country. As a congressman with a district of thousands of small family farms, …
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Antonio Delgado says he represents the eighth most rural congressional district in the country. As a congressman with a district of thousands of small family farms, Delgado has made a point of concentrating on dairy farms. He has been visiting farms in the district, discussing the wants and needs of farming families, and possible solutions for improving the agriculture sector.
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, on February 27, Delgado had the opportunity to attend a hearing with the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. Delgado asked Perdue what could be done to improve the plight of small family farms, especially dairy farms which continue to close down as the number has declined year after year for many decades.
“It’s a challenge,” said Perdue. “These are economy-of-scale issues that impact the entire economy, not just agriculture. And the economy of scale for a small dairy is going to be extremely difficult going forward, even with the new farm bill. I don’t think any of us would submit that we’re compelled to keep anyone in business if it’s not profitable.”
The problem with that answer is that the federal government sets the price of milk, and some analysts would argue the federal government therefore already determines to a large degree whether small dairy farms will be profitable.
In any case, it was not the answer Delgado was seeking. His office issued a press release that read, “Delgado, feeling that Perdue’s response was wholly inadequate, sent a letter today inviting the Secretary to New York’s 19th Congressional District to hear directly from farmers whose livelihoods have been jeopardized by low prices, market consolidation and a lack of access to local resources.”
In his letter, Delgado said, “Priorities dictate policies. And when it comes to your agency’s priorities, I believe a reassessment is necessary. Family-owned farming operations have provided a high quality of life not only for rural areas, but for our whole nation, for hundreds of years,” Delgado said. “If small farms perish, so will a quintessential aspect of American life.”
Continuing his efforts in the agriculture sector, on March 4, Delgado announced the formation of the 19th Congressional District Agriculture Advisory Committee. The committee is comprised of 40 farmers and agricultural leaders from all 11 counties in the district. From Sullivan County, Willie Hughson, president of the Sullivan County Farm Bureau, is a member.
“All over our district, we’ve got small, local farms that are so vital to our way of life upstate and to our economy. I’m looking forward to working with the Advisory Committee to prioritize small and mid-tier family-owned farms who are too often marginalized by Congress,” Delgado said. “The best ideas on how we can empower farmers come not from Washington but from those who actually live and breathe these issues every day in our district. We can’t work through solutions to the challenges that family farms are facing without conversations like the ones I’ll be having with this Advisory Committee at the local level.”