WASHINGTON, DC — Dairy farmers across Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin and California—the biggest milk-producing states—are opposing the new Farm Bill as miserably inadequate in addressing the pressing dairy farm crisis.
“The new farm bill should liberate dairy farmers from being the dairy industry’s cash cow,” said dairy farmer Brenda Cochran. “This farm bill can be the means by which the dairy farmer citizen is once again allowed to operate his dairy farm as all other businesses are, by being able to cover his cost to produce milk, but that’s not going to happen. My family and I have been victims of these irresponsible and unconscionable government policies that destabilized hundreds of thousands of dairy farming families like ours, driving them into insolvency and forcing them out of business.”
Arden Tweksbury of the Progressive Agriculture Organization, an affiliate with the National Family Farm Coalition, said that “the farm bill that was recently passed by the Senate fails to correct the financial inequities that are being experienced by dairy farms all across the country.”
The Senate bill that was just passed continues to use very questionable insurance programs as their method to solve the dairy farmer’s financial dilemma, Tweksbury said, adding that “the undersigned organizations and support groups in our coalition clearly oppose these types of insurance schemes.”
Tweksbury points to the recent results of a survey reported on National Public Radio that over 40 California dairy farms have gone bankrupt over the past few months. “The number of dairy farms in the United States has decreased from 600,000 in 1976 to 51,481 today,” he said. “Something has to be done and done soon. It is unthinkable that Congress continues to formulate policies or dairy bills that, in all probability, will be responsible for a continued decline in the number of dairy farms in the nation.”
Brian Smith, a Wayne County dairy farmer and the chairman of the Wayne County Commissioners, said, “No matter what the business you are in, you have to be able to make more money than it costs you to make your product. The present pricing structure does not apply this rule to dairy farmers. It’s elementary. Farmers are powerless. You’re at the mercy of the people who are the only source of processing your product—the milk producers.” He believes that the evidence shows that dairy farms are going to go out of business much faster than we have seen up to now.
According to Tweksbury, there is a bill currently on the Senate docket (S-1640) that will help dairy farmers almost immediately. The biggest advantage offered by this bill is the provision that the farmer’s cost of production be used to determine the pricing of milk on the market, but so far, he said, there has not been a lot of interest in this bill by legislators.