Friday, May 29, 2009

Just How Bad it is in the Dairy Industry

Read about it here in the LA Times.
For California just fill in NY or any other dairy state. Even the big, efficient farms are hurting and hurting badly. Prices are projected to decline still more in June.
Dairy month....yeah right...death of the dairy month is more like it.

It is literally costing us and most other dairy farmers more money to make milk than we are being paid for it.

A LOT more money.

We are among those who have burned through savings and credit and are watching the lifetime investments of more than one generation of hard working people melt like snow on a hot muffler. With beef prices so low, you can't even sell your cows, pay down your debt and get out. You are a prisoner of the economy.

Excuse my whining, but it is so darned discouraging to even get up and go out in the morning, knowing that it is costing us at least six or eight dollars more for every hundred pounds of milk than we can possibly be paid for it. I can't believe the milk inspectors still stop and ask for a new door on the milk house, fresh paint here, new hoses there. Ours said, "You know they want the place to look nice from the road (never mind that you can't see it from the road.) I wonder where they think we will get the money for these things. My late and exceptionally wise mother-in-law always said, "You can tell when the farmers have money. The first thing they do is fix up the place."

Well, I figure you will be seeing a lot of pretty shabby places over the next few months.
And empty ones too.
Lots of them.
I was really pleased to see such an article in a big city paper like the Times.....


jan said...

We are all very aware of the problems in the dairy industry in rural areas of California. The problems affect us all even if we live in cities.

I'm surprised to see the story in the LA Times where they think food is produced in supermarkets behind those doors that say "Employees only."

Thank you for putting a face and a family on the story.

threecollie said...

You are so right, Jan. I probably shouldn't rant and whine when I am grateful that things have finally begun to reach the notice of the media...I just get so frustrated! Thanks for caring.

Linda/Il said...

As a dairy producer it does get VERY discouraging to open that milk check. Thankfully our coop has voted to give an additional $1 or last month $.75/hundred. It's such a trivial amount but it helps a little along with the government program (that's laughable).

The only thing is we get an extra 13th check based on the profits/yr.
So, you can guess where that will be this year. A lot of producers have counted on that check for land payments, etc. No more!

Floridacracker said...

Eating cereal every day and slurping whey protein shakes too in an effort to singlehandedly keep the dairy industry alive!

Jeffro said...

I've become convinced that farm subsidies aren't really for the farmer. It's government's cheap food policy in action.

There are a few successful farms out there. Most seem to sport a few of these in their front yards.

Anonymous said...

*heavy heavy sigh*

Have you read "Atlas Shruged"?

I wonder, what would the nation do, if YOU, in all of you, the dairy industry, I mean ,ya'll, said " NO MORE, WE ARE DONE! "

Look. You KNOW the dairy industry, you KNOW how to plant food for yourselves, you KNOW how to maintain a household, you KNOW what needs to be done. YOU and your family knows how to take care of YOU and YOURS. Why are you taking care of everybody else?

I am going John Galt. I am in the process of dropping off the grid.
I will not be held resposnible for the well being of others, who don't care enough to take care of themselves. I will not be held responsible for the government doing to you, what they are doing to everybody.

I adore you, your blog, and the hard work you put in day in and day out for my benifit. But I will no longer presume that you will be there always. So...I say..get out the best way that you can that benifits you and your family.

I will help you and those like you, but I will take care of me and mine first. It's all about survival of the fittest now.

Luv ya TC.


threecollie said...

Linda/ll Thanks for understanding. I am glad your cooperative can help a little....and I really hope you do get your thirteenth check. We haven't seen one in several years and no clue where the money went....if they even made any. Somebody is making it though...

FC, good on you! It helps keep you trim and buff looking and the dairy industry needs all the help it can get. We are grateful for good customers!

Jeffro, I suspect you are very right about subsidies. They are better than nothing but not a very big help in the end....and I would love one of those things in front, back or side yard...Yeah!

JW, I haven't although I know I really should. We are so discouraged. I don't know what we will do. We could feed ourselves indefinitely, but taxes might be another story. We pay a hefty chunk in property and school tax. Still just withdrawing from the whole mess has plenty of appeal. Take care and thanks for the kind words.

lisa said...

It just makes me so angry that people just don't realize what will happen and what prices will be like if all of the farmers are forced out of business!! They need to get their heads out of the their _______.

threecollie said...

Lisa, thanks, you are so right! And wasn't anybody listening during the melamine scandals and all the other stuff that has been going on with Chinese foods, including dairy products? Our foods are tested, tested, tested. That is why we have recalls-they find something wrong and get the food back before too much damage is done. How many babies died from tainted milk in China? So we let our farms fail due to archaic pricing and where will our milk come from. Our tomatoes and so much else is already imported from countries with lower standards than ours. People just don't understand, particularly people in government.

Anonymous said...

WE are in the same boat as you --
not knowing what we are going to do -- the farm & cows, & chattels were suppose to be our retirement as we are 65 --plus a year or two --but to sell out when what you have is worth nothing -- & by the time you pay your bills, debts, & Uncle Sam takes his cut -- there will not be anything left to show for 40+ years of hard work & no vacations....


threecollie said...

Dena, thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment. These are the hardest times the industry has seen in a very long time and I fear there are not going to be any easy answers for any of us. We just keep plodding along, wondering what decisions about planting and fertilizing and keeping or selling this cow or that will work out for, not the best, but rather the least bad. It takes the fun out of life...the joy out of living...when all you can do is worry. I am sorry to read of your situation too..

Jinglebob said...

Prayers from here. Hope this gets turned around, and soon!

Freste said...

Nice rant. Didn't detect any whining. But yeah the logic you describe is everywhere. I'm getting much of that now. I have resolved to respond with the look similar to someone asking you to grow a third arm. Is there something better than the farming y'all have been doing for generations?

It's a Brave New World. Eat your Soylent Green.

threecollie said...

Jinglebob, thanks, much appreciated!!

Steve, thank you too. I am so grateful when someone gets it too. I guess we are dying breed and aren't smart enough to notice.

Islagringo said...

It's a frightening thought that government may be putting farmers and our food source out of business. Are they just plain stupid or what? I don't drink milk and USA milk would never reach me anyway so can't help you there. I think about you and your family and your oh so strong and supportive life together a lot. ng in there. It HAS to get better soon!

threecollie said...

Isal G, thanks for your kind words. Our thoughts are with you too in the hard and sad times you are facing. Take care...

Anonymous said...

Hello and first, I have great empathy for you and the *family farm* community overall (without knowing you, of course). I don't follow yr blog, and hope my comments won't cause a rant from any of your friends - people more knowledgeable than I am, about agriculture!

With that said, a few thoughts:

From the article cited, 'Collectively, U.S. farmers need to slash milk production by about 5% to bring supplies in balance with current demand'. SO is it *possible* that this crisis will resolve itself? 5% doesn't seem like a huge adjustment... but again, I realize this doesn't take into account the human impact to the farmers.

The farms mentioned in the article sounded rather large - which I imagine may be the norm today. I was also surprised to learn that dairy prices are so influenced by *both* subsidies AND the futures market!

Given this, might a return to more local markets be feasible, over time? would it help? Or has that option already been exhausted given the transition to very large farms?

The coop model sounds terrific! (again, not knowledgeable here).

And finally, what is the effect of the use of growth hormones in maximizing production? Is there a tradeoff wrt the cost of production vs. volume of milk per animal? (please don't take offence - I am fortunate to be able to buy organic. I also understand that theory is that the quality of milk is the same; it's just that I also heard that cows on hormones require additional medical care? just asking.)

Again, I ask these questions with great respect and empathy for those family farmers who are being affected. The economy is affecting SO many aspects of our lives, and so many of our fellow citizens; this is one more sad example.

threecollie said...

Anon, the issues involved in milk pricing are so complicated that it would take a book for me to explain everything you have asked. I will take a shot at it though. First of all, if American dairy farmers cut production by 5% coops would just import that much. Some coops do represent their farmers but many of them have bought plants and become processors with their farmers members caught in contracts with them. Because a couple of huge companies control most of the milk market in the country farmers can't escape from these people. There is nowhere else to go. Selling locally is not possible because of the need for a processing plant to pasteurize and bottle the milk. And market it. It is illegal to sell raw milk in most places.

The size of the farm has no impact on this issue. Everyone is in the same boat pretty much. In better times, big farms actually do somewhat better due to economies of scale, such as hauling rates etc. However right now prices are so far below the cost of production that no one is doing well...including organic farmers. A large percentage of Maine's organic producers lost their entire market and are scrambling for a place to even sell it.

As for growth hormone...pretty much a dead issue. Very few processors will buy milk from cows treated with it and most farmers have signed agreements not to use it. I would imagine in not so long a time it will be practically unheard of....we never used it anyhow.

Any way, thanks for stopping by...hope you will come again. This is an extremely complicated issue, with monopolies, rampant importation of virtually uninspected milk powder,(which even if you don't drink it ends up in cheese, cakes, cookies etc.) and a lot of misinformation being bandied around. I hope it is resolved before dairy farming is just another industry that moved overseas.

Anonymous said...

Threecollie, thank you for your very thoughtful response to my *many* questions! You raised several other points which I hadn't even considered.

I too hope that farming remains a viable role in our society. This seems critical, for some of the reasons you cited.

I try to support local farms by shopping at the local producer-only farm markets. This is just a small thing, and frankly a bit self-serving, because a. the food quality is great, and b. I can see how the money goes directly to the farmers... I hope!

Thanks again and best wishes to all.