Vermont dairy farms have suffered dramatically during COVID-19, exposing longstanding market weaknesses. At least 40 more farms (of 677) have closed since COVID, and most currently operate at a loss — farmers work very long hours at a negative wage, depleting equity and increasing debt. Vermont officials focused on the sole measuring stick of race allege that Vermont’s farming economy “depends” on immigrant farm labor. In fact, immigrant farm laborers (who get paid a wage, and get time off) are dependent on the farm families who have striven for generations to create viable businesses.
Xusana Davis, Vermont’s executive director of racial equity, has led the wolfpack of farmer-haters. In a year when the Vermont Legislature is weighing slanderous legislation (H.273) that alleges that white Vermont farmers used Jim Crow and sharecropping laws to eject blacks from Vermont farmland, or that Vermonters committed genocide against native peoples, Xusana Davis has repeatedly sneered at Vermonters and Vermont dairy:
“White people … can stop assuming that Latino people are undocumented. And even if they are, recognize your reliance on them and on their labor in this state. Vermont is so proud of its dairy. But who do you think is breaking their backs producing it?” she said.
Ms. Davis was recently hired for a base pay of more than $96,000 annually — plus benefits, weekends and other concepts alien to dairy farmers. Ms. Davis’ studies of race appear to have excluded any comprehension of agriculture or Vermont’s cultural history — but then, if you are a race-bashing hammer you must find things to hit, even if it is bashing struggling dairy farmers who create jobs for the (often) undocumented workers now used to vilify them.
This isn’t about black versus white: it’s about elite urbanites, utterly ignorant and thus contemptuous of rural life and rural farming, who lord it over the “natives” as backward, unenlightened, and toxic. The opposite is the case.
Wendell Berry, who has written passionately for decades about this contempt for farmers, points out the following:
But in helping us to confront, understand, and oppose the principles of the global economy, the old political alignments become virtually useless. Communists and capitalists are alike in their contempt for country people, country life, and country places. They have exploited the countryside with equal greed and disregard. They are alike even in their plea that it is right to damage the present in order to make a better future. (“Conserving Communities”)
Xusana Davis and the pseudo-enlightened farmer-haters in the Vermont Legislature propose to “create a better future” for illegal immigrants while agitating against the white community and white farmers who hold the knowledge and experience to ensure that future. Xusana likes to say Vermont is “unceded” land, owned by long-dead Abenakis, but what agricultural methods does she recommend that will employ Latino immigrants? From what culture will she and others derive their new utopian foundations? Certainly as to agriculture, Xusana Davis and the social planners are clueless as to the good use of land — their standard is racist ownership, not knowledgeable stewardship.
There was great fuss about granting COVID relief checks to undocumented Vermont workers last year. But what of our Vermont farmers? While Xusana was preaching indignantly about a ludicrous “dependency” of Vermont farmers on brown people, those human farmers who hire brown people were losing tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Oh, but the poor immigrants:
Without paid sick leave, it’s hard for farmworkers to get tested for the virus, and to isolate when they’ve been exposed or are ill, she said. Farmworkers are also ineligible for unemployment insurance.
“A lot of people were left without a job,” said Abel Luna from the Vermont farmworker advocacy group Migrant Justice. And because many workers get housing with their jobs, farm closures left workers without places to live. Even on farms that stayed open, workers saw their hours cut… Ruth Hardy, a Democrat [said] “Our dairy farms, especially our larger and medium-sized dairy farms, would not be able to milk their cows without migrant farm labor,” Hardy said…. “These are people who contribute to the social fabric of our communities, certainly to the economy of the state. They’re Vermonters, and they were left behind by the federal government,” [Xusana] Davis said.
Imagine if the dairy farmers were “left behind” by Vermont and its government. Who will hire the illegal visitors? Are the farms part of the “social fabric of our communities”? Here’s a news flash for the Legislators and race warriors who are utterly ignorant of agriculture: farm owners don’t get workers’ compensation, unemployment income, paid sick leave, or any other modern government securities — while they go to work at a loss of thousands per week. (Will Xusana Davis pay $10,000 per month to lecture Vermonters on how racist and hateful they are? Then she would be experientially qualified to comprehend what dairy farmers are experiencing now.)
Dairy and other farms are declining: Vermont’s culture is declining with it. Black and white and brown people will all starve equally when the farming culture and food quality decline. To the extent this is an adversarial process, it is not between black and white people, and never has been. It is a battle between industrial corporatism and local community. As Vandana Shiva has so adroitly summarized:
What we are seeing is the emergence of food totalitarianism, in which a handful of corporations control the entire food chain and destroy alternatives so that people do not have access to diverse, safe foods produced ecologically. Local markets are being deliberately destroyed to establish monopolies over seed and food systems. … The right of corporations to force-feed citizens of the world with culturally inappropriate and hazardous foods has been made absolute. … This food totalitarianism can only be stopped through major citizen mobilization for democratization of the food system. (Stolen Harvest, pp. 17-18).
But Xusana Davis wants to invite “corporations who are in the state who helped to shape the state’s culture” to “do the work” of racial equity in Vermont. Perhaps she will recruit Monsanto and Cargill, or Ben & Jerry’s — they are all corporations that exploit local food production while chanting social justice. They are also enemies of the local culture and food production created and perpetuated by native white farmers, not new arrivals of any color.
Wielding the race sword in Vermont is a toxic farce. Our Vermont dairy farmers are not guilty offenders to be curtailed and subdued. They are not the enemies of the poor immigrant workers they gratefully hire for lack of labor (that, too, is a sign of the decline of agriculture, not an ascendancy of racist exploitation).
Race warriors must get a little education about the people they denigrate and contemptuously condemn. I spoke with a farmer recently who milks 1,600 cows, producing approximately 120,000 pounds of milk daily (that is, 1,200 “hundredweight”). There are no federal subsidies presently for dairy farmers. Farmers are currently paid about $17 per hundredweight: but the cost of production exceeds $21. This means that farmer is losing over $4,800 per day, or $144,000 monthly.
This white farmer has been dairying his whole life — I know his father, and I knew his grandfather, both of whom did the same. I know his son, who has joined him on the farm as his career choice. This family never owned slaves, and has paid a fair wage to workers regardless of color. The price of milk in 1999 was about $17 per hundredweight (same as now). But cornmeal was $95 per ton in 1999: now it is $260/ton. Electricity, taxes, and equipment costs have all escalated, as have real estate taxes. Farm wages have spiked under COVID, as many would-be workers stay home collecting a check rather than milk cows that will quickly sicken and die if neglected.
Vermont’s “director of racial equity” exhibits in every sphere this “race-only” deterministic lens. Not only are Hispanics due all credit for milking Vermont cows, they are responsible for our rights in America:
“Mr Miranda is a Latino man whose name people know because he’s the reason that when you get arrested, you’re read your Miranda rights,” Davis said. “So there are so many, many things that we enjoy as Americans, as Vermonters, that are directly the result of gains made that at the time were considered for Brown people, or for People of Color.”
Correction: Mr. Miranda took advantage of laws written by white men who were highly educated and aspired toward constitutional protections for all — not racists enforcing systemic oppression. The “right to a fair arrest” was not “given to us by a Latino man” any more than the productive use of Vermont farmland — those were white backs that “broke their backs” in poverty clearing this land, learning animal husbandry, and establishing city markets. It was never “all about race” until the new breed of elitist carpetbagger moved north.
Similarly, Rosa Parks would have achieved nothing without white judges implementing a white-drafted constitution that still aspires toward “color-blind” equality even as race-baiters tell us that this aspiration is an illusion and we must center everything on race identity. Yet, Critical Race Theory proponents (such as Xusana Davis) wish to dismantle the Constitution — is Xusana praising the Miranda decision while trying to erase the document that gave rise to it? Yes, she is: hypocrisy in race theory is as prolific as quackgrass.
Crediting a hardcore criminal for creating the principles of the American Constitution is like crediting COVID-19 for creating a wonderful vaccine. Glorifying rapists may be typical of the “decarceration”-obsessed, “criminals-are-victims” mentality of the New Fascist Left, but let’s not paint Ernesto Miranda as a jurisprudential hero, OK? After his case was dismissed because he had given an extorted confession, Mr. Miranda was retried without it, and convicted of kidnapping and rape. Yet Vermont’s director of racial equity praised a convicted rapist for fashioning modern Constitutional values … solely because of his race.
Perhaps Xusana Davis and the other farmer-haters don’t care about white farmers “privileged” to work 16-hour days at a loss of $1,200 daily. Industrial bureaucrats like Xusana Davis and Ruth Hardy should drink in a dose of humility when considering the plight of honest, hardworking, white Vermont farmers. But that has not happened previously toward our food producers, so we won’t hold our breaths now.
When all the farms close, Xusana and company will need a new target — and a new employer for the unending stream of victims they exploit to perpetuate their own elitist power and wealth. And when the hyperinflation of profligate COVID spending hits food supplies, there will be few farmers to feed Xusana, or Ruth Hardy, or the poor suffering immigrant victims.
Let them eat (Hostess) cake, or powdered milk from China. Vermont farmers are tiring of being the whipping boys for so much denigrating defecation from government sadsacks, clueless about reality. Maybe Xusana Davis and Ruth Hardy should get real jobs, and work on a farm — no one will ask their race or immigration status.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2021. All rights reserved.