“Small Farm Republic” is a new book by farmer and former gubernatorial candidate John Klar that challenges government policies that hurt small farms, and provides a blueprint for making local agriculture thrive again.
“‘Small Farm Republic’ advocates for conservatives to support local agriculture for healthier food, healthier humans, and to nurture rural communities,” the description on the book’s website reads.
In the book, Klar draws upon his knowledge as an attorney and farmer to increase awareness of the problems with America’s industrial food system, and he offers bipartisan policies to improve agriculture for the benefit of all Americans.
His book is currently getting endorsements, and has a forward written by Joel Salatin, a well known farmer, lecturer and author.
“In his inimical attorney style, Klar takes on climate change, GMOs, aging farmers, carbon credits, solar panels, food safety regulations, school lunches—you get the picture. For each problem that plagues our culture generally and agriculture specifically, he offers a simple solution: small farmers serving local food systems,” Salatin writes.
Klar has written dozens of published commentaries over the years on public policy and farming. One general theme of his is that government intervention in farming policies often harms the economic viability of small farms.
“The government has been displacing farmers in Vermont for decades,” he wrote in a 2016 opinion piece published on VTDigger. “Our small dairy farms were pushed off our hills due to technological innovations like bulk tanks, which were mandated by laws enforced by the Ag Department. Small milking operations could not endure the expense of such improvements: Farms with more cows, and more capital, could. The result was a long progression of the big guys pushing the little guys out of the market and off to pasture (so to speak).”
Small farms are in trouble
Small farms having trouble in Vermont is not a new trend. A recent VTDigger report highlights an organic dairy farm that the owners say isn’t getting the bills paid despite long hours and hard work.
“Some farmers have told officials with Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, also called NOFA, that if they don’t receive help by spring, they’ll go out of business,” the report from early February states.
The report includes some alarming data. As of early 2023, 140 organic dairies were operating in Vermont, down from the 203 that existed in 2016. In recent months the farms are starting to leave rapidly.
“One farmer closed shop in January. A week later, by the time state lawmakers were presenting a $9 million emergency package for the industry to their colleagues on the House floor, three more farms had shuttered,” the report states.