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April 18, 2019

Jim Goodman is a recently retired dairy farmer who has dedicated most of his life advocating for family farmers, farmworkers’ rights, and fair trade with the Family Farm Defenders and as Board President of the National Family Farm Coalition. We caught up with him during his latest trip to Washington, D.C., after he sat down with different Senate offices to discuss land rights issues and small family farms. I asked Jim to share his thoughts on his recent retirement and what that means for the future of family farming.

Transitioning Out of Farming

I’m Jim Goodman. I’m the Board President of the National Family Farm Coalition based here in Washington and I am a recently retired organic dairy farmer from Southwestern Wisconsin. I guess I retired a little bit sooner than I wanted because organic milk prices really took a 30-40% hit over the last few years and we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to take over our organic herd. So we had to sell it, and our farm will continue to be farmed organically but mostly growing just grain crops and hay. When we first got certified 20 years ago we thought we had it made in the shade, but eventually the problems the conventional farmers have seen caught up to organic farmers.

“Everybody does better when everybody does better”

I guess policy-wise the basic thing every farmer needs is a better price, a fair price. We don’t really want subsidies, we just want to be paid what our product is worth. So NFFC kind of looks at the big picture because we have such a diversified membership. We’ve got farmers from the South who grow a lot of vegetables to a lot of dairy farmers in the North and Midwest and New England, and a lot of grain farmers. Just a whole diversity of about 30 groups. We even have family fisher groups. And all of us, without question would say the big problem is that farmers need a fair price, and to make that all work, everyone needs to have fair wages no matter what their job, what they do. Because like Jim Hightower says, “Everybody does better when everybody does better.”

The Future of Family Farming

Consolidation is pushing family farms out. Eventually it’s gonna get to the point where there won’t be any small farms anymore, and I think that’s a problem. A lot of consumers really wanna know where their food comes from, what country it comes from, how it’s raised, and when corporatization takes over everything that probably won’t be an option. At this point in time I think everyone needs to stop and think about the consolidation in agriculture, and if they value family farmers, I think we all need to pull together to change things, get fair prices, parity pricing, and maybe we can start to get back the type of agriculture we used to have.

Follow the National Family Farm Coalition on Twitter: @FamilyFarmCo
Read his op-ed: Dairy farming is dying. After 40 years, I’m done.