2009: A Near Catastrophic Year For Dairy Farmers

People, we have GOT to realize that our ability to provide food for ourselves is actually a national security issue. Please read this article below which only touches on the issue of the WTO in destroying our ability feed our own population….Let me know what you think. Sometimes it feels like I am speaking into a black hole and things are not resonating with my fellow countrymen.

River Reporter

Farms are closing at an alarming rate

By TOM KANE

REGION & NATION — Things couldn’t be much worse than the way the dairy farmers are rewarded or, more accurately, not rewarded, for the quality and quantity of the milk that America ’s dairy farms produce.

And it’s not because they haven’t been articulate about what is needed: a real connection between the dairy farmers’ cost of production and the price they get for their milk.

The federal government and the dairy cooperatives, called coops, have failed dairy farmers who have been falling by the wayside this year and for the last 10 years. Dairy farms have been disappearing at an alarming rate and nothing is being done to staunch the extinction.

Two senators from Pennsylvania , Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, are working hard to solve this. They have created legislation, called the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act of 2009 – S-1645, and farm organizations across the Northeast and farmers in other milk-producing states are getting local, state and federal elected officials to urge its passage.

“Support for these resolutions by local government officials highlights their understanding of the severe damage being inflicted on their communities by the on-going dairy farm economic crisis,” said Arden Tewksbury of the Progressive Agriculture Organization (Pro Ag).

Pro Ag, the National Family Farm Coalition, the National Farmers Union, National Farmers Organization, the American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association, Family Farm Defenders and many other farming organizations are supporting what is being called the Specter-Casey Bill.

One of the problems that passing such a bill will face is what is called the “global trade mentality” that is prevalent among legislators and business people. Under global trade agreements, it is easier to bring in products that can hurt American industries, in this instance, milk producers and distributors. “Without fair raw milk prices that can’t be undercut by the global trade movement, local dairy farmers will not survive,” Tewksbury said. “The once vibrant rural communities will continue to collapse and consumers will not have access to fresh, local milk and dairy products.”

Recently, New York State Senator John Bonacic urged dairy farmers to storm Albany in order to resolve the plight of New York dairy farmers. “Governor Patterson ignored my plea to use the Obama stimulus money to help solve the inequities that exist in New York State ,” he said. “If the legislators won’t come to you, then bring the message to them. Go to Albany in numbers and make them listen.”

Subsequent to Bonacic’s suggestion, dairy farmers traveled to Albany but had little effect on any action by the state.

Recently, the Congress passed a stop-gap measure with legislation that will pump $300 million into the dairy industry to relieve farmers. This one-time payment, as welcome as it is, will not change the convoluted process used by the feds and the dairy coops to set the price of milk, some of which date back to the Great Depression and even further.

Dairy farmers generally are disappointed with the coops that are not helping farmers get the best milk price. Many say that the coops, even though dairy farmers are on their boards, are in the business to maximize their profits, largely ignoring the plight of the dairy producers.

Local dairy farmer Brian Smith, who is also the chairman of the Wayne County Commissioners, won a seat on the board of the local Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) board—the regional coop—when he campaigned on the poor job the coops are doing for the dairy farmers.

One of Smith’s main concerns is that dairy farmers cannot compete on the world market because of the cheap milk products that are available in foreign markets. He says the coops promote the importing of milk products, despite what it is doing to the poor price dairy farmers are getting today.

“I dispute the word promote,” said Monica Massey, DFA vice president of corporate communications. “We have to operate in a global dairy environment. That’s the reality. There are no fences around our country. If we want to export milk products, and we do, then we need to be prepared to accept imports. It is our aim to minimize imports. We export 10 to one. We exported 1.2 million pounds of milk last year and imported one million pounds. We can not limit imports unreasonably. The World Trade Organization (WTO) says we have to do this.”

Dairy farmers say that the coops are not the only organizations that are dragging their feet on the issue of a fair price to farmers for their milk. Other companies in the dairy business as well are not doing all they can and are only interested in maximizing their profits, dairymen say. They mention companies like Dean Foods, the largest distributor of milk and other foods in the nation, and Land O’Lakes, another large distributor of milk products.

According to figures released by the Federal Election Commission, these companies were among the top contributors to federal candidates’ election campaigns in both parties. Dean Foods donated $378,000 to both party candidates, DFA donated $164,900 and Land O’Lakes donated $113,050. The contributions did not come directly from the companies but from their political action committees. Dairy farmers are claiming that these companies have the ear of Congress members who are loath to pass legislation that will hurt the companies’ bottom lines.

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