A family farm manager is someone who helps farmers with marketing and customer service issues and also manages their dairy operations, says the new Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
He’s been an avid advocate for family farms for decades.
In his first public speech, in April, he called them “important to the American economy,” saying that farmers “are more efficient, safer, and better for the environment than large, centralized, vertically integrated agribusiness.”
But for years, farm managers have been under scrutiny from some farmers and lawmakers, who have questioned whether they’re performing adequately.
“The farm manager position is a low-paying, highly vulnerable position,” says a recent USDA report.
Perdue wants to take it up again, and he’s talking about the federal position.
He says he wants to make sure that family farms are “not a victim of their own success.”
The position is “an important one” for many farmers, Perdue says, because it’s a “critical component of our overall strategy to ensure that we keep our farmers’ livelihoods going strong, which includes ensuring that they are well supported.”
A number of families who were once run by family farmers are now headed by family farms.
And some of those families have raised tens of millions of dollars for food banks, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
They’re also a force for good in the local community, Persee says, helping to “keep the community safe and healthy.”
Some of these families are still operating in the same way, he says.
The family farms that used to be run by their grandparents are now run by some of their adult children.
These families have grown, and they are now responsible for providing food to a lot of people who are hungry, he adds.
The Trump administration has tried to rein in family farms since the Obama administration’s Farm Bill was passed in 2012, Percome says.
Under the new Farm Bill, the USDA can’t allow for the closure of family farms in the face of rising food prices.
Instead, it can only close them if the farm has “grossly understimated” food needs.
Perseverance is a big part of that, Persevering to fight for these families’ right to stay open and succeed.
“We’re fighting very hard to maintain that status quo,” he says of family farmers.
Pervery has also been critical of the USDA for not doing enough to protect family farms from being destroyed by the federal government.
The farm program was created under the Agriculture and Nutrition Service’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service in the 1990s, to help the private sector sell farm products to consumers.
The USDA began administering the program in 2001, and in 2014, it closed down the program.
But Perdue has been pushing for it to be reauthorized by Congress.
“What we’ve seen is that it has not been adequately protected from the USDA and the federal farm secretary,” Perdue said in his speech last month.
Persee said that in order to protect families from losing their farm, the program should be reauthorized.
Percoming also criticized the USDA’s failure to implement the rule that limits how much money the USDA must spend on advertising on farms.
The rule was designed to stop the USDA from being able to spend more than $15 million per year on advertising, Pervery says.
Instead of focusing on that, the agency has been “stirring the pot” for a more costly advertising campaign, Perchance says.
It’s “an effort to make the farm manager more expensive,” he adds, which “undermines the mission” of the program by encouraging people to spend money they don’t have.
The Department of the Interior has also criticized family farms recently.
Last month, the department announced that it was pulling out of the Farm Bill and is reevaluating the program, which was supposed to last for five years.
In its place, the Interior Department announced a plan to expand the program to allow it to extend until 2022.
Perchance thinks the change will have “negative impacts” on family farms: “They’ll be looking to expand their operations and not invest in the quality of the product they produce.”
Perdue’s talk at the White House comes after Trump has pushed for more family farms to be protected from federal government interference.
“There are times when you need to make tough decisions, and you need some flexibility,” he said in a statement.
“I will do my best to keep family farms alive and viable.
But there is also a lot to be said for supporting families who choose to run their own farms, and I will continue to support these efforts.”