The sad state of the US dairy industry: sensible policies needed
Over the past two years, nearly 1,200 of the state’s dairy farms have stopped milking cows and so far this year, another 212 have disappeared, with many shifting production to beef or vegetables. The total number of herds in Wisconsin is now below 8,000 — about half as many as 15 years ago. In 2018, 49 Wisconsin farms filed for bankruptcy — the highest of any state in the country, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
It explains this as the result of “The rise of corporate farms and more efficient milking processes have led to an oversupply as consumption of milk has waned nationally.”
What’s going on with dairy farming is astonishingly poor policy, especially for small farmers who are now a deeply endangered species.
In what other industry would you find producers continuing to ramp up production while demand slides, and then stuffing the growing pile of surplus into warehouses, hoping the federal government will buy some of it?
- The current dairy production support system favors Big Dairy.
- Government subsidies encourage dairy farmers to produce more milk. Large producers get more subsidies than small ones.
- Large producers produce more milk.
- Milk production is up.
- Milk consumption is down (but not because of vegan ideology).
- Milk surpluses get converted to cheese.
The result: The government is now stockpiling 1.4 billion pounds of cheese.
Should dairy farmers go back to a system of restricting production the way they do in Canada?
One thing is for sure. If we want local dairy farms to survive, we have to find a way to pay dairy farmers as much or more than it costs them to produce.
Serious policy thinking, anyone?