TOWN OF ANSON — Animated discussion of President Donald J. Trump’s current polices — healthcare, immigration reform and trade — was had at the Wisconsin Farmer’s Union gathering at Kamp Kenwood in the town of Anson Thursday.
The discussion was led by Roger Johnson, president of the bipartisan National Farmer’s Union.
Johnson explained how reforming U.S. immigration law may have devastating effect on Midwest farmers, but that Trump’s policies on trade may help them out.
Johnson said Thursday that although he doesn’t have a stance on Trump’s rhetoric or tax policy, he thinks the current President’s trade stance might ring true with farmers.
“Interestingly, from a policy standpoint, the Farmer’s Union lines up with this administration’s trade positions. More closely than we’ve lined up with any other administration for years ... we’ve said it’s a mistake to continue to run these enormous trade deficits,” Johnson said. “That is arguably the issue Trump won on.”
Johnson’s stance on agriculture company consolidation also seemed to strike a chord with the audience. “This is where the industry seems to be heading,” he said. “It’s a problem. There’s no competition left in the marketplace.”
The farm industry has seen agriculture giants such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont merge, driving costs higher. Chemical companies Dupont and Dow reaffirmed in June that their plans for an August 2017 merger are well under way. Monsanto shareholders approved a merger with agrochemical company Bayer in December 2016; that merger is expected to complete by the end of 2017, according to a Bayer press release from April 2017.
“You pay more for the stuff you buy, you have fewer choices — and we have a system that is less efficient at the end of the day,” Johnson said. “Producers lose. The monopolist wins.”
George Polzin, who owns and operates a dairy farm of Red Holsteins in the Anson area, spoke about the need for a comprehensive health care bill, and how a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would affect his family.
Polzin’s wife works off the farm to get health insurance. “That’s very common in agriculture,” Polzin said. “One spouse probably has to work off the farm just to get insurance through a company.”
The family used to buy their own insurance, Polzin said, but the cost was well over $1,000 each month.
He said the worry over immigration reform affects more fruit and vegetable producers than dairy farmers, but that he’s felt the loss of workers over and over. “Workers come here with a three-month visa, and it doesn’t do dairy any good. Dairy isn’t a three-month business. It’s seven days a week. The immigration programs, as they are, are not set up to accommodate that type of work.”
Polzin speaks highly of the Latino and Hispanic workers he’s employed, and said he advocates for better immigration programs — ones that allow foreign students and young adults to come to the Midwest to learn about the industry.
“Regardless of what people think, agriculture is still important,” he said. “People still kind of like to eat. That’s the way I look at it.”