The farming industry isn’t too pleased with former Vice President Joe Biden’s Iowa campaign trip this week with former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who recently took some heat for his lucrative job with a group fueled by compulsory payments from struggling dairy farmers.
Numerous farmers condemned Biden for being oblivious to the harsh realities of dairy farmers who have to fight closures and bankruptcies.
But Vilsack, the former Iowa Democratic governor, endorsed the former vice president while pocketing $1 million each year for his salary.
Jake Davis, national policy director at Family Farm Action, slammed Biden for turning a blind eye on Vilsack’s abnormally well-paying job and keeping him as the one in charge of agricultural policies.
“Vice President Biden clearly didn’t think through the ramifications of having someone like Secretary Vilsack on the bus tour and writing your agriculture policy when the former secretary is taking a million dollars out of the pockets of dairy farmers across the country,” Davis said.
Family Farm Action is a nonprofit progressive advocacy group aimed at curbing corporate agribusiness growth.
“In 2017, a year in which 503 dairy farms closed in Wisconsin and 1,600 were shuttered nationwide, IRS records showed the top 10 executives at the organization were paid more than $8 million — an average of more than $800,000 each, the Journal Sentinel found,” Cary Spivak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out in a Dec. 2 report.
Vilsack’s salary and incentive alone was reported by the Journal Sentinel to be $930,000—averaging more than $800,000 each.
“Vilsack’s salary and bonus/incentive compensation alone was $930,090, more than quadruple the $200,000 salary he received as a member of the Obama cabinet,” last year’s new records obtained by the Journal Sentinel found.
Dairy farmers who are experiencing hardship amid the tumbling milk prices, are mandated by Congress to “pay into a checkoff program overseen by the Department of Agriculture,” according to the Journal Sentinel. Around two dozen of such programs exist, which covers everything from Christmas tree farmers to cattle ranchers.
Former executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets Joe Maxwell suggested that a new team be introduced to reverse the little success dairy farmers are seeing.
“The fact remains that they are grossly overpaid considering the [lack of] success dairy farmers are seeing in the marketplace,” Maxwell, an outspoken critic of mandatory checkoff programs, said. “Perhaps they should let their executives go and bring on a team that could actually help the dairy farmers of America.”
Farms are required to pay into the program even if they are operating at a financial loss — which is particularly damaging to dairy farmers as they pay a larger share than do other types of farmers.