News & Politics

Small Farmers Voted for Trump in 2016—Now They're Taking Him to Court

A new lawsuit aims to preserve an Obama-era protection from predatory tariffs.

Photo Credit: Brocreative / Shutterstock

For decades now, the Republican Party and people speaking into microphones for the Republican Party have relied on the onerous mythology that somehow conservative politicians believe in farmers and small business more than the liberal “cultural elites” and “city slickers.” Like all Republican Party platforms, this is just a lie to dress their true worship of the golden calf of big business in a populist and racially charged American flag. On the campaign trail Trump promised to protect small farmers from predatory tariffs and general big business overreach, and since becoming president, Trump has staffed the USDA with the same incompetence that he’s staffed the rest of our government departments with. To add insult to injury, Trump’s administration made sure to do away with important Obama-era protections for small farmers.

Obama-era rules that had yet to take effect would have given smaller farmers more power to set the terms of their deals with massive meat companies, empowering the growers to sue and better define abusive practices by processors and distributors under federal law. Trump’s Agriculture Department killed two of the proposed rules, one of which would have taken effect in October.

Major agribusinesses like Cargill and Butterball fought the rules, saying they would lead to endless litigation between farmers and global food companies.

Trump’s deregulatory strike — lauded by big business — has consequences, even for the mom-and-pop turkey farmers who raise free-range, antibiotic-free turkeys that have seen increasing demand as Americans become more socially conscious about the production of their foods.

Now, as NPR reports, those small farmers are getting together and launching a lawsuit to protect themselves from extinction in the new Republican utopia.

The suit, filed on behalf of OCM by the Capitol Hill legal watchdog Democracy Forward, charges U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and his agency with "arbitrary and capricious" behavior in rolling back those two rules. One of them would have made it easier for individual farmers to sue for anti-competitive behavior.

Many of the farmers affected by the rollback supported Donald Trump for president, who promised to look after their interests. Now, the disillusionment is setting in.

West Virginia poultry farmer Mike Weaver voted for Trump, but says the feeling now among small farmers and ranchers is, "Where's the support that you promised us? We voted for you because you were going to make things right, and it's not happening."

It’s hard to not just shake your head and say “I told you so” to the people who voted for a billionaire pig real estate developer of casinos and hotels. What the Republican “base” needs to realize is that you can’t have your bigoted cake and eat it too. You either get your racism and are continually screwed by the rich, or you join ranks with those people you are afraid of but have considerably more in common with. Those are the two choices and they keep making the wrong one.

Poultry farmer Weaver, who also serves as president of the Contract Poultry Growers of the Virginias, says he's one of "the lucky few" who can speak freely. He came to poultry growing after a career as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not dependent on his farm income to survive.

Few of his fellow small contract poultry farmers — 71 percent of whom, he points, out, "live beneath the federal poverty level" — enjoy that luxury. "I've had guys in tears on the phone, telling me, 'My farm has been in the family for five generations, and I'm about to lose it,' " Weaver says.

Weaver is selling his farm. 

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Walter Einenkel is a social media editor and writer at DailyKos.