by Marion Nestle
Mar 10 2012

Dairy farmers: are you part of the 1%?

Adam Davidson in the New York Times Sunday Magazine asks how come dairy farmers have such a hard time making a living?

His explanation: Dairy farmers thought they were in the business of raising cows.  Wrong.  They are in the business of betting on feed prices.

…in the last decade, dairy products and cow feed became globally traded commodities. Consequently, modern farmers have effectively been forced to become fast-paced financial derivatives traders.This has prompted a significant and drastic change.

For most of the 20th century, dairy farming was a pretty stable business…at base, dairy-farming economics are simple: when the cost of corn and soybeans (which feed the cows) are low and milk prices are high, dairy farmers can make a comfortable living.

And for decades, the U.S. government enforced stable prices for feed and for milk, which meant steady, predictable income, shaken only by disease or bad weather.

…[But] by the early aughts, to accommodate global trade rules and diminishing political support for agricultural subsidies, the government allowed milk prices to follow market demand.

…Animal feed, especially corn and soybeans, became globally traded commodities with all the impossible-to-predict price swings of oil or copper.

Davidson points to the 1% of dairy farmers who have figured all this out and are big enough to hire derivative traders to manage their feed stocks.

Farm bill politics, anyone?

Dairy farmer readers: comments please.

Comments

Hello! Thank you for inviting comments. This was a letter that I wrote to congress in 9/09. Nothing has changed. We did get a better milk price but the costs of feed has gone up with it. (Lets not forget the subsidies that were given for ethanol, while food and feed are high) Here is the letter:

September 29, 2009

Lady Justice
To: Members of Congress

My faith in my industry leaders and co-ops is greatly shaken. This is why I muster enough confidence to write to you on my behalf and for the behalf of the hard working dairy farmers in our nation that have had to endure these difficult times and lay mercifully at the hands of those who are to be representing us and looking out for “best interests”.

I am a third generation dairy farmer married to a third generation dairy farmer. We have experienced highs and lows in the past but now the highs are very short lived and the lows carry on for months and months. Dairy farmers have been in the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. Yet, I sit here today and we are short milk nationwide with the price that we receive still below the cost of production.

Did our leaders not see this coming? We have just completed retiring many healthy cows because there was too much milk, yet we are now bringing milk from Kansas and Oklahoma to California. That doesn’t make any sense!

We do know that Kraft and Dean Foods both recorded record profits. We also know that retail prices for Cheddar was up 4%, Ice Cream up 5%, American Processed Cheese down 1%, Butter down 14%, Fluid whole milk down 20% (Q-2 2009 vs Q-2 2008). Yet the U.S All-Milk price to farmers down 47%.

Another injustice is the use of MPC’s in our domestic market. MPC imports are up and our milk price is down! It would make sense that we would restrict MPC’s from being used in our domestic supply. These MPC’s have a direct impact on our price at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange which is a thinly traded market. It would make sense to produce these MPC’s here in the United States.

We have been blessed to have $350 million allocated to help the dairy farmers. I urge you to use some of those funds to put dairy farmers on a level playing field with “Big Food”, co-ops, and processors.

Our milk price has not increase to date due to the “ample” inventory supplies. Dairy futures are driven by the NASS surveys. Only about 800 are required to report. With this reporting there is a two week lag time.

More disturbing to me is that there is NO AUDITING FUNCTION what so ever. Even a slight miscalculation of reporting is an indirect factor on our milk price. I would like to see some of the money allotted to help dairy farmers to go toward the implementation a mandatory auditing function and quite possibly to daily reporting which would add to much needed transparency and improvement of our price discovery. The Beef/Pork producers have daily reporting with an auditing function that has worked very favorable for their industry.

As in all business, a balanced supply for demand is needed. We already have a faulty price discovery system with inventory reporting that has no accountability. With those factors in place it takes away our ability for necessary triggers that we need to balance our supply with demand. Dairy farmers are in a different situation than most, as we can not just “shut down” and not produce milk at the drop of a hat, as the health and well being of our cows are at stake. I think that many have benefited from this lag and lack of supply triggers.

I am also asking of you all, to help implement a National Supply Management Program. This will enable us to stay in alignment with demand. Highs and lows are inevitable at times but this will be manageable and keep us from devastation. It would put us on a level field. It would put us in a situation of control in our industry and relieve dependence of government assistance and alleviate the need to retire perfectly good and healthy animals to balance supply with demand.

I am asking you to please consider these solutions. Allow us to help ourselves by improving and changing the systems that are now in place. As most can agree, what we have now is failing miserably. It is time for change in our industry!

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Barbara Martin

Tony Martin Dairy

6240 21st Ave

Lemoore CA 93245

  • Tom
  • March 10, 2012
  • 10:46 pm

Diary farmers have similar problems to chicken farmers in that they are frequently selling to a market with one buyer and are responsible for varaible costs. (Personally, I don’t mind high corn soybeen prices as this would induce more farmers to let their cows eat grass. A frequent argument against vegetarianism is that cows can convert the suns energy in grass((that humans can’t digest)) into something we can digest, meat. We don’t need cows to eat corn or soybeens).Dairy farmers, like chicken farmers, are responsible for lots of costs that are fixed and subject to fluctuations(feed) but are contracted to sell to one buyer, such as Dean Foods. Chicken farmers have to buy all the long term assets with debt(barns, etc.,) and contract to sell to a buyer like Perdue that owns all the assets that can be liquidated qiuckly(the chickens, the feed, etc.) and can cancal a contract at any time.

What I would really like to know is no matter where you go in this country, why is it that convenience stores always sell out of chocolate milk while they have so much white milk(skim, 1%, 2%, and whole) that they can’t possibly sell and just throw out(write-off). I suspect there must be some Federal Market Order concerning white milk that doesn’t apply to chocolate.

Here in Australia, we dairy farmers are not subsidised at all and the price for milk is not set. Instead, we must compete on the international commodity markets and live with the volatility of the exchange rate.

Costs are just as volatile as our incomes. Feed and fertiliser prices rocket up and down. Then, of course, there’s the weather! Mother Nature is a tempestuous ruler…

Put all three together and you have a recipe for uncertainty. You’d think we’d be clamouring to hedge, wouldn’t you? We do a little bit, buying as much feed as we can when prices are low.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought of trading futures but I don’t think I will either. Trying to read the stock market has seen plenty of experts come unstuck. I’m an expert in looking after my cows, land and family.

That’s why we supply a farmer co-operative to trade our products on our behalf. I certainly hope the gurus there are earning their keep!

  • Sarah
  • March 11, 2012
  • 2:55 am

I remember when cows ate grass, not commodities.

  • Bruce
  • March 11, 2012
  • 6:16 am

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The income crisis in dairying has nothing to do with “betting on feed prices”. The prices paid to dairy farmers in this country are illegally fixed by corporate dairy PROCESSORS like Kraft Foods. Kraft illegally manipulates cheese prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and those manipulated cheese prices are then used by the USDA to set prices paid to dairy farmers. And dairy farmers MUST accept these manipulated prices. Kraft intentionally keeps prices paid to dairy farmers extremely LOW to maximize their profits! Kraft doesn’t have to BET on anything!

It’s corruption on a grand scale and the federal govt turns a blind eye to it because of corporate lobbying efforts.

Written by a REAL dairy farmer.

  • FarmerJane
  • March 11, 2012
  • 7:23 am

Bruce is right. A tiny handful of corporations control virtually all price setting in dairy. There is no market transparency on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where a few traders provide the basis for national prices. And, as dairy is further globalized, international price setting is gaining strength, further removing pricing from the dairy farmer’s grasp. Here in NY, you absolutely must be selling your milk to one mega-cooperative who then sells to the mega corporations. The mega corporations do NOT want to know you as an individual farmer. They buy in bulk and they buy CHEAP.
Despite the proximity of NY’s dairy farms to the best market in the world (the Northeast Corridor), NY’s dairy farms are paid the absolute LEAST of all farmers in the northeast. The big companies love to locate here for the cheapest pool of milk imaginable, convenient to the Thruway and onto NYC. Take a look at the video posted on http://www.WBNG.com (Binghamton TV) For the first time, the NY media is asking why NY farmers are paid so little. The farmer in the video asks why why why are the farmers paid so little when Chobani, Fage are pumping out incredible profits. Soon, Pepsi will build North America’s largest yogurt plant here in NY as well. Its all good, I’m glad they are here because they provide jobs and a new market for our milk, but must we be squeezed for Cheap Milk to the point of breaking?
And, NYC consumer groups have been of no help whatsoever. In fact, in 1998, when farmers attempted to establish collective bargaining, NYC consumer groups worked to break our backs. Google “Have a Cow” and “Northeast Dairy Compact” NYC consumer groups fought tooth and nail for Cheap Milk and to deny farmers the right to a collective bargaining mechanism that might have given us a countervailing power against the global corporations that buy our milk. And, in 2009, when dairy farmers Upstate were literally commtting suicide, NY food groups sat stone cold silent saying their interest was more in “local food”. Now, they are wondering where all the farmers went to in NY as our working countryside emptied out. Drive upstate sometime and take a look at the miles of empty dairy farms, grasslands growing to scrub (3,000,000 acres abandoned). Empty farms and shabby rural main streets everywhere. Invisible to the NYC eye at this point. Please take a look at the clip and see the people whose hands make the milk that provide milk to the northeast.
http://www.WBNG.com The video is called “Demand and Price in Dairy on Opposite Roads”

It is indeed worrying that dairy farming in US is not profitable, mostly owing to unpredictable feed supply mechanisms.

To beat the system system why can’t all the dairy farmers grow their own fodder and remove the dependency on external factors? wouldn’t that make dairy farmers less dependent on the fodder/grain market?

We have started one such initiative in India, where we are encouraging the dairy farmers to grow their own fodder/gran and we have achieved initial success – able to produce milk at Rs. 12 per liter (approximately 25 cents) and selling price is close to Rs. 22 (44 cents)

  • Deb Windecker
  • March 11, 2012
  • 9:03 am

The dairy food system we live in is in fact driven by global competition with little relevance to local supply needs. NYS dairy farmer’s are receiving some of the lowest commodity pay prices east of the Colorado Rockies yet we have some of the highest cost to produce in our high taxes and inclement weather which requires a higher capital investment. The dairy farmer is receiving less than 28% of the retail dollar while our “corporate processors” reap huge profitable returns off our backs. The dairy farmer is at the bottom of this latter. NYS has seen a huge surge in Yogurt processing yet the NY dairy farmer’s pay price goes down. Supply/demand economics does not work in this industry do to market manipulation, lack of inventory auditing, and market transparency on the Chicago Mercantile exchange where 1% of the milk is traded which dictates the national farm milk price. Market consolidation is at our door step with a few large farms who will produce the majority of our fluid milk and the remaining will come in from countries where it can be produced cheaper. Please read http://www.farmshine.net/features/yogurtplants.html it is a great article that presents a map of what the hard working dairy farmers in NY are facing. We need consumers help in addressing this inadequacies. We need fair practices for farmer’s and consumers.

  • FarmerJane
  • March 11, 2012
  • 9:09 am

Great to hear from you, Shashi. I can only speak for my part of the country. But in NY, we have about 5,500 dairy farms, average size of milking herd is 60 to 100 cows. This state is blessed with rich and well watered grassland resources. However, the smaller farms who graze their cows are actually paid far LESS than the huge multi-thousand cow farms. For example, if you are a big farm milking 1,000 to 5,000 cows, you will get a big volume premium, smaller trucking charges (the farmers have to pay to truck the milk to the plant also) plus you achieve greater efficiencies of scale. Also, some of the government programs are geared to help the bigger farmers. In the area of energy efficiency, the big farms have been able to get the grant monies to build methane digesters to make methane from the cow manure of cows living indoors since they do not deposit it on the pastures. We currently have a proposal here for a 72,000 cow beef confined feeding operation in New York where the cows will stay in one area, not grazing. Former politicians are hired to help them lobby for tax incentives and approval, while we the regular small farmer are on our own. The politicians occaisionally pose for pictures with us, but the real money goes to the biggest of NY farms when you look behind the scenes.
So, yes, you are right, we the smaller and mid-sized farms are trying to use and grow as much of our local food as possible for cows: grass, hay, grass silage, but still it is so difficult to compete with the multi-thousand cow farms with their huge efficiencies of scale, and higher pay price in NY. Also, these farms are worked by immigrant workers. Even the farmers who own the multi-thousand cow places concede that their farms would likely have a difficult time surviving if it were not for the cheap immigrant labor brought in for them.
In the meantime, the smaller and mid-sized farms are trying to do just what you are talking about. To date, though, consumers have not really shown that much interest in us commodity farmers. Their interest is mostly on farmers who sell directly or through farmers markets. It is possible that we are on the verge of seeing people interested in where commodity agricultural products come from. We are very grateful to this blog for a chance to speak.

  • Anthro
  • March 11, 2012
  • 6:23 pm

To all the real farmers who have poured their hearts out in the comments today, I am deeply distressed about all the things you write about. You have put real human faces on a situation that seems to be trying to destroy the dignity of farmers and the love they have for their land and their way of life. Let’s not even get into animal welfare and the environmental issues of those 1000+ operations! Glad to hear about the methane digesters, but why does the money always flow to those who need it the least? Sadly, I know the answer to that and it has to do with politics.

As you who read regularly know, I live in Wisconsin (although I am a late comer and can’t say I have lived in the shadow of our dairy history), and I wish I knew more about all the things you write about. I do know that we have lost thousands of small dairies here, but I also know that we still have thousands and that much effort has made by politicians (hooray Senator Herb Kohl–the most moral billionaire who ever lived!) to assist our dairy industry. Lately we’ve had Californians coming in trying to buy up small adjacent farms and turn them into mega-farms and there has certainly been resistance to that. Wisconsin also led the way to get rbgh out of milk. We have also done a lot to support our artisanal cheese industry to survive and grow. I know we have problems here and I don’t know enough to go into more detail, but something tells me we are doing better than NY–for the small farmer anyway. I WILL look into it. I feel I am guilty of taking the dairy farmer for granted and I want to do better than that.

I found the comments about the yogurt production interesting as well. This seems to follow the same old pattern of BigFood buying cheap, processing with cheaper-than-cheap labor and then selling a tiny carton of “Greek” yogurt for $5, thus impoverishing the farmer and the worker, but lining the pockets of the 1%. And no, I do not wish to “cash in” by being a part of those practices, FarmerDell (troll).

  • Anthro
  • March 11, 2012
  • 6:36 pm

P.S.

http://www.sassycowcreamery.com/Content/Home.htm

This is the dairy I buy from at the Co-op and other outlets throughout the city–not the BIG chains, but several places.

Please read the “about” section–it seems a far cry from what’s posted here.

Also, from Senator Kohl’s column in the local paper:

Sassy Cow Creamery was just a dream for the Baerwolf families until 2008 when they changed that dream into a business reality. Working with the state and federally funded Dairy Business Innovation Center (DBIC), they fine-tuned the skills they would need to build a successful farmstead dairy business. They learned how to make and market a diverse range of products based on Sassy Cow’s belief that cows that are treated well make the best milk and ice cream. That philosophy, and really good ice cream recipes, would eventually turn Sassy Cow Creamery into a successful business supporting 23 employees and creating delicious specialty dairy products.

I have worked hard to support the dairy industry in our state throughout my career. We fought to bring an end to anticompetitive regional dairy compacts and helped create the Milk Income Contract Program to help dairy farms stay in business when milk prices plummet. I also helped establish the DBIC which has helped to grow our states specialty and dairy processing business. Sassy Cow Creamery is only one of many examples of companies that have used the DBIC to help start and expand local dairy businesses. Since 2004, the DBIC has assisted more that 175 dairy companies become more profitable. It helped create 43 new cheese processing plants and expand 92 other plants increasing employment at these facilities by twenty percent.

Read more: http://www.journaltimes.com/washington/kohl/sen-kohl-a-modern-dairyland/article_9f8c8ffe-9e88-11e0-b9c5-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1or1z60Yz

  • Wena
  • March 12, 2012
  • 12:27 am

It just struck me that my Mum who is living in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan mentioned to me that she’s renting her land to a dairy farmer for growing grass. And as we drove throughout the farm area, she pointed out land where dairy farmers were leasing land to grow grass for their herds. It was a lot of land.

I’m living in Malaysia so I came back with the impression that there were a lot of dairy farmers still feeding cows with grass but that it took a lot of land to grow grass. A lot of grass but I guess without having a good overview of the land usage of Michigan, I wouldn’t be able to know whether dairy cows are fed grass or corn/soybean.

  • Nate Wilson
  • March 12, 2012
  • 7:58 am

Good morning,
I was urged to respond to this by Lorraine Lewandrowski. Albeit, I’m a bit under the weather, here goes.
Just perusing your current responses, Bruce has hit the main mark. If in doubt I would suggest you contact the Office of N.Y.’s junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was quite outspoken on the chicanery in cheese trading that loads the USDA Farm Milk Price Formula on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, (CME) at a meeting in Westfield, N.Y. last Aug.; “There is no transparency or honesty in (milk) pricing mechanism at all, I want to push the envelope that there is a disconnect between the farm (milk) price and how we come up with it through the price of cheese in Chicago. I think there is a lot of corruption and anti-trust behavior that is there to keep the farm (milk) price down.”
Without basic reform of the USDA Milk Price Formula all other remedies are doomed to fail. I have written some op-eds on this subject and the other nonesense Congress is now considering for dairy in the 2012 Farm Bill. If you are interested in reading these please contact me at gksworks@gmail.com and I will forward them to you.
Sincerely, Nate Wilson

  • Suzanne
  • March 12, 2012
  • 11:55 am

Thank you to all the dairy farmers who contribute here. Your comments have truly opened my eyes to the income disparity abuse between mega conglomerate processors and the dairy farmers who produce for them. Thank you for educating me. You are part of ground zero for developing sustainable local food systems.

  • Suzanne
  • March 12, 2012
  • 11:59 am

I have a very naive question for you. What issues are involved with ‘opting out’ of producing for the processors, and shifting to selling locally distributed value-added products? For example, opting to sell raw milks and cheese, full fat yogurts with minimal sweeteners, and heavy cream ice cream with whole food ingredients? I mention these particular products because these are items I am interested in paying a premium for.

  • Lorraine Lewandrowski
  • March 12, 2012
  • 3:48 pm

I am glad that a number of farmers chimed in here and very grateful that Dr. Nestle gave us a chance to be heard. Another problem that we, the average farmers have, is that it is very difficult to get our info out in the bigger urban media. So often, when a story is written on ag and food, farmers are not interviewed or included. Kind of “invisible farmer” syndrome that I hope will come to an end.
Concerning Suzanne’s question, it costs a load of money to start up a processing plant to process dairy in any way. We like the idea of “real dairy” products given the unfettered power of global corporations to “junk down” dairy products with fillers, additives and even totally fake products bearing “dairy-like” names. Regarding raw milk, some states do allow its sale with proper certification to sell raw milk, but as a lawyer for the farmers I have to say there is much potential for farmer liability associated with raw milk in case someone were to become ill from it. Setting up other types of processing also is costly, running $50,000 plus for a very basic set up. It is achievable but only with the farmer having put in significant time for a new skill set and education concerning process and quality control. Perhaps we will be seeing more of these kinds of farmer and/or small coop ventures as Suzanne and Anthro have mentioned as people become more interested in local food and local dairy products.
Most dairy farmers are still recovering from 2009 when the price of milk dropped to around $10 to $12 for a hundred pounds of whole milk at the farmgate (there are 8.6 pounds of milk in a gallon). After trucking and mandatory advertising costs, farmers were getting about 90 cents for a gallon of whole milk, which can then have the fat removed, made into skim and good butterfat, protein and whey then made into other products. In 2009, national figures are showing that the average farmer lost about $1,000 for each cow that they had. Many that I know were paying their bills on credit cards, dropping health insurance, selling off land, woodlots, taking on extra jobs, and counting on local churches to help them with food, etc. to survive. It all came to a horrible climax of suffering in NY when Upstate dairy farmer Dean Pierson went to his barn, killed all 50 of his cows and then himself. Only then, did the media really give us any coverage.
As it unfolded since 2009 in NY, fracking companies have come here to Upstate NY offering farmers the promise of fast money if they will sign leases to let their land be fracked. A few of the environmental groups have now seen the connection between the farmers somehow being able to make a living with milk sales (especially grassland farms that are not suitable for growing crops) and keeping the open countryside vibrant with income generating farms. We are also seeing NYC groups starting to look beyond involvement in ag only through CSA’s and farmers markets to the fate of the “commodity farmers” of NY. The first time I have heard of a group in NYC mention NY commodity dairy farmers occurred last week with a press release from a group called the NYC Farm Bill Working Group. We also have, as mentioned above, Senator Gillibrand sincerely working on behalf of the farmers Upstate. Senator Gillibrand told us at a meeting here in Herkimer, NY last fall that she speaks with NYC officials who are now asking what can be done to protect NYC food security.
Farm Bill talks are well under way with a variety of proposals ranging from supply management to going global by promoting exports. Hard to say where the farm bill will end up. Some of the coops are working on risk management tools for their members as one of the commenters mentioned above. What’s important, though, is that food-interested people talk with actual commodity farmers of their region and ask them their situations. The answers may be different for different regions. There is no one model of production. Here in the Northeast, many farms based on grass, but it may not be the same for other areas who have other resources. I shudder when I read low quality reporting saying that dairy farmers stuff their cows full of grain and fill them full of antibiotics and growth hormones, this is simply not true. Be as proud of the people whose hands produce basic commodities as you are of the farmers who put food in your CSA basket! If you have questions, ask. I’m on twitter at @NYFarmer Just shoot me a tweet with a question. If I don’t know, I will ask someone else.
Personally, whenever I fly over the Northeast Corridor, I look down and wonder about food security for NYC, Boston and the suburbs. How can it possibly make sense to stand by now and watch the working countryside surrounding the cities be destroyed? We need to address agriculture and ways to keep farmers on the land, if not for ourselves, at least for future generations.

  • Bruce
  • March 12, 2012
  • 3:56 pm

Great question Suzanne,

Our small dairy has looked at those issues. Other than the various marketing challenges of selling directly to consumers there are state regulatory requirements and significant capital costs involved in processing raw milk. We could handle the regs but the extra cost is a big hurdle. Traditional dairying is already capital intensive!

  • Cindy Gallagher
  • March 13, 2012
  • 7:25 am

Our family operates a 75 cow dairy in central New York. We take good care of our cows, utilize rotational grazing in season, grow all our own forage, get well above average production and work everyday of the week with little time off. However, we still rely on off-farm income in order to live very modestly. when advice is given to small farmers to diversify or direct market their products, all I can say is, ” Where do we fit the time in to do that?” Like others have pointed out, dairy farming takes a high capital investment with sometimes a low return. Truthfully, I’m not sure what the answer is. Most people farm because they love it and have a passion for the land and animals. I just want Americans to understand how fortunate they are to have such a safe, healthy and affordable food supply.

  • Nate Wilson
  • March 13, 2012
  • 4:43 pm

In Cindy Gallager all the silent, small, family farmer dairy producers have found an eloquent voice. None of these folks farm solely for profit or financial gain; if they did they would be sick at heart.
How many non-farm readers can imagine working 70, 80 or more hours per week week-in-week-out and not garner even a meager standard of living? This is exactly what Cindy alludes to. That is the every day reality for America’s family farm dairymen, struggling in an economy that has no higher purpose than making billionaires out of millionaires…
Nate Wilson

My husband and I were in dairy farming for 39 years. We live on the farm where my husband grew up on , his parents lived here and farmed before us. So actually my husband has been in farming all his life. We struggled for years. We were a small dairy farm and it was really hard to get by. In 2009 we were in desperate shape. We sold our camper, my husbands guns, some of my prim furniture and more just to pay bills. The stress was awful ! I sat out on a chair in our yard and cried and cried many nights , each week never knowing if we would still be on our farm the next day , the next week. So in May of 2011 we made the decision to sell our cows.We were getting deeper and deeper in debt.Dairy farmers are not paid enough for their milk and many are still struggling. On May, Friday the 13 th our cows were loaded up and left for good. It was an awful feeling seeing them being loaded and taken away. We went to the sale Friday night. And it was all I could do not to sit there and cry . We are still paying on our dairy debt now. It will be years til we even get close to paying it off. It was so hard the Saturday after the sale. We went out to the barn ( we kept some heifers and calves) to feed and both my husband and I were crying. seeing that empty barn was really hard on us.And it has been a huge adjustment for us . We were so used to going to the barn morning and night for all those years and it was hard to adjust our life to not going. We miss going to the barn, but we don’t miss the stress that goes with farming. We know it was the best decision for us .

I have the deepest respect for all of the hardworking dairymen that have commented here.

I am also a dairyman in CA. I produce raw organic milk and bottle it on the farm and sell it to 400 stores in CA, delivered by our own trucks….yes raw milk.

This is a complete departure from the concept of selling to one of the processors to be pasteurized.

I see the biggest problem as this:

Processors have hijacked the market place and stolen the “wholeness out of the milk” for the consumer and the “cream out of the cream check” for the farmer. The processor is the enemy of all dairymen and all consumers. Processors love cheep milk and dairymen that fight one another as the big eat the small.

My raw milk gets me $165 per CWT, no lactose intolerance for the consumer, no allergies for the consumer and it is simply delicious. I even have 8500 Face Book fans that me….

What can I say….tell the processors to go screw themselves instread of you and the consumers and build your own markets….connect to the consumers directly and stop relying on the processors. They serve themselves and the store shelf ( dead milk makes for a great long shelf life product but serves the consumers GUT very poorly )….not you or the consumers GUT.

The dairy industry must bring themselves together. The farmers must stand together and rebel against their processors. They must reconnect back to their consumers with products that the consumers love and can digest.

These are golden words….

When the FDA, CDC, UC system professors and Monsanto preach that Raw Milk is SCARY DAIRY….I know better. They have a big lie they are telling and that is causing you a huge problem.

Big lies make for big problems. Change….

Our consumers love raw milk and will not listen to the advice of the FDA or CDC….they know a wolf when it cries too many times is telling a lie…When they hear bad things about raw milk….guess what, they buy more raw milk!!

At Organic Pastures Dairy…we have never had higher sales. At $8.50 per half gallon at retail,…sales rage. Consumers love raw organic grass fed milk….for once a product that is delicious, digestible, and not allergenic…it even heals and prevents allergies and asthma. Wow. Medical milk!! The good stuff missing on our diets.

We need more dairymen connecting to consumers. It is amazing what they will share with you. Take your advice from a consumer that knows what they want.

  • FarmerJane
  • March 18, 2012
  • 9:04 am

Wow, at $165 for 100 pounds of milk, you are getting paid several times over what we are getting paid…right now about $19 for a 100 pounds of milk. How come your milk is worth so much more than ours? We milk 65 cows, use antibiotics only when needed for a sick cow and we don’t and never have used bovine growth hormones. We pay huge land taxes on several hundred acres of grazing land and our cows graze every minute possible when it is not winter. We and all the kids from farms in our area were raised on raw whole milk, we never even considered buying store milk and had never heard of skim milk….and we were all rail thin and physically fit.
We celebrate the farms of the northeast, the traditional dairy area of the country (think red barns, grass pastures, farmers taking care of their cows personally) and the thousands of small farms here that produce a heft share of the milk. So, consumers, why is the milk from our farms worth virtually nothing?

  • Beenie
  • March 19, 2012
  • 9:34 am

Farmerjane: It’s exactly because you’re a slave to a commodity market that your milk is worth little. NY dairy farmers need to find a way to get themselves out of the commodity farming that is virtually impoverishing them. Banding together to form your own co-op and growing that into a Creamery just might be your best route out of the commodity market, if selling raw milk is illegal in NY.

We have several raw dairies here in Colorado that operate by herd share programs. They are very popular here, and waiting lists are not uncommon. For the heard share operations, the price for a gallon of milk is about $10 (each shareholder is entitled to 1 gallon of milk/week), not including the $30/month board and feed fee each shareholder pays. Most of these dairies deliver their product for customer pick-up at various drop points along the Front Range. This makes it very easy for anyone in the metro area to get raw milk dairy products, which include cream and butter as well as milk.

We also have a handful of independent Creameries that contract directly with local dairy farms for fluid milk, at a very good price, an average of $8/gallon for raw milk. We have a flourishing artisanal cheese market here in Colorado directly from these Creameries.

[...] A story from the March 11th NYTimes Magazine, Even Dairy Farming as a 1 Percent, about the confusing pricing of dairy and how that takes a tole on farmers. Marion Nestle hinted in her rebuttal that FARM BILL POLITICS plays a part of the story that was left out (yep yep) she asked for dairy farmers to comment– LOTS OF good stuff to read in the comments- go now! [...]

I’m glad to see these conversations. A key factor is that farm commodities “lack price responsiveness” “on both the supply and the demand sides” for the groups of crops/dairy that we grow. (Cf. “Michael Pollan rebuttal” or “Daryll E. Ray” + APAC “It’s Price Responsiveness” or click my name) That’s why we need a good farm bill, plus, good antitrust laws and enforcement of antitrust, plus fair trade protections (to stop the corps. from dumping on US dairy prices). See the YouTube video: “The Dairy Crisis & the 2012 Farm Bill.”

By the way, the video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2UZg0GzOcI&list=PL9AB172F046C852C2&index=1&feature=plpp_video

gives data to show how dairy farmers in the 99% needed 1% level off farm income to help survive, or something along those lines.

The same for crop farming, where tax loss farming enables the rich to write off profits by losing money farming, or if when prices spike and they make big profits, buy up more land, driving up land prices.

The dilemma is that Congress cut Dairy farmers way back, (& grain) not caring that we lost money on US dairy (& farm) exports. (The cut is, given the lack of price responsiveness.) Then they threw out bones, tiny compensations for the reductions (subsidies, tax write-offs). The “visible” subsidies are then blamed on farmers as “The Hidden Farm Bill Pie” massively but secretly, subsidizes Ag Biz buyers. The tax write-offs then benefited the rich, in higher tax brackets, much more than all of these farmers, with the low farm prices for decades. We then see this stuff blaming farmers as “1%.”

You can sign on against this all at “The 99% Votes.” (under subsidies, agriculture, Brad_Wilson)

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