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NODPA E-NEWSLETTER | February 1, 2012

There is confusion on
the supermarket dairy shelf!

No it's not just that they have all those juices posing as milk (Soy milk etc). It's a shortage of organic dairy product on some shelves coupled with higher brand prices (an increase of $0.45/ half gallon or $10/cwt) and higher store brand prices also has one of the largest (perhaps the largest) grocery chains advertising its store brand at $2.50 per ½ gallon.

According to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) "One large national retail chain has engaged in widespread consumer advertising of its store brand at prices rivaling historic lows" which is the opposite of other chains and an obvious exploitation of organic milk as a loss leader to draw other organic consumers to their stores. We understand that the milk for this store brand comes from a large operation in Texas and is packaged in a single plant in Kansas.

How does this compare with the economic reality faced by organic dairy farmers who are losing equity in their business every year?

One organic feed supplier in the northeast is running an Account Receivable that has increased by $1 million in the last eight months as farmers have been unable to meet their credit terms. Another increase in feed prices may force 15 to 20% of the farms he supplies out of business or make them return to non-organic traditional production.

Until September 2011, farmers hadn't received an increase in their pay price since 2008. In September they received $1/cwt and will receive another $2/cwt in February or March 2012 depending on who they sell their milk to - but this may only be a temporary increase, scheduled to end in June 2012.
For most farmers the increase in their pay price is welcomed but too little and not permanent. One farmer put the increase into context with the reality of their situation. "Our farm has only seen $1.50/cwt of that $10/cwt store shelf increase in our milk check, soon to be a $3.50/cwt increase, or 50 cents/cwt more than what we received a little over 2 years ago when organic corn was $300 a ton; this winter we are paying $525 a ton."

Store-brand organic milk is now a loss leader for retailers to draw customers into their stores. This reality benefits all organic manufacturers and consumers on the backs of organic dairy farm families. Our petition signed by over 1,000 folks on line and in-person (click here to download a pdf of the
) shows that consumers are willing to pay more if the money goes to farmers. Recent increases in retail prices don't appear to have slowed sales. In the words of George Wright, NY farmer and NODPA Treasurer, "Processors and retailers need to examine whether they need to earn as much or more than farmers from a ½ gallon of organic milk. Consumers need to ask why farmers don't get their fair share of the retail dollar."

If you believe in a fair share of the retail dollar for farmers please sign our petition, get your friends to sign it, have the organizations you support promote the petition. Click on the link below to go to the petition:

Deep Pack Barns for Cow Comfort
and Manure Management

A deep pack barn system generally consists of a foundation of concrete or hard clay with a layer of gravel and then a bedding pack of straw, hay, sawdust or well-chipped wood shavings. Manure and urine mix into the bedding that remains in place for several months and is generally cleaned out once a year.

A deep pack system is different from a composting pack that is aerated in the barn daily by tiller or turning. As with any type of housing structure, adequate bedding and good milking hygiene help manage the pathogens naturally found in a bedded pack system. For the pros and cons of this system please click here.

Dry Cows Do Have Memories

Well they do have a 'biological memory' which can be stimulated by good management practices. The late term pregnancy of a dry cow is a complex biological process that is sensitive and vulnerable to negative challenges. If the challenge is severe enough during the dry period, the dry cow may not be able to biologically recover adequately for a healthy birthing process and lactation performance may be compromised. It is always good for a farmer's bottom-line if the dry cows approach freshening with positive memories. To learn more about the influence of a cow's memory, please click here.

Update from UNH
on their Multi-State project

"As more and more farmers adopt organic agriculture practices, they need the best science available to operate profitable and successful organic farms," says Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of USDA. The University of New Hampshire takes this charge seriously with their project to assist organic dairy producers to meet new and emerging markets. The project, which was funded through NIFA's Organic Research and Extension Initiative, addresses needs expressed by organic dairy farmers in a series of focus group interviews funded by two planning grants. To learn more please click here.

New England Farmers Are the 99%

Though we didn't pitch a tent in any city park, we know that agriculture in New England is not part of the 1%. The 1% are the agribusiness conglomerates. They don't till our rocky soils or haul trainloads of grain, sugar, cotton or rice across our mountains. They don't have small, organic dairy herds that graze our rocky slopes. They are the 1% who benefits most from government programs. They are the 1% with the most money for lobbyists and advertising. They are the 1% that says, "Agriculture is big business. We have to feed the world." How can we occupy our seat at this national table? To find the answer, click here.

-- Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director  


Summary of Odairy Discussions:
"Gee, it's not just me."

NODPA's list serve was quieter than usual until the issue of pay price and feed costs hit the airwaves. One of the best aspects of this list serve is that it connects farmers to each other and, in times of crises, reassures them that they are not alone and that the predicaments they are experiencing are being shared by others. Sharing the increased cost of feed and other costs that are outside the control of organic dairy producers provides some comfort to farmers that it wasn't because of their poor management that they were losing money on their operations. To read more, click here.

Profile of New NOSB Member: Jean Richardson

In December 2011, five new members were named to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the 15 member advisory board that helps set standards for the National Organic Program. Jean Richardson is one of the newly appointed members and will assume the consumer/public interest slot. It is a five-year term, set to begin this January. Having a board member from Vermont is exciting news for producers in the Northeast. Jean has hands-on and practical understanding of organic agriculture; conducts organic inspections of both farm and food processing operations; is a Professor Emerita at the University of Vermont (UVM); is a Founding Director and President of the New England Environmental Policy Center (NEEPC); and Jean's appointment to the NAFTA Commission on Environmental Cooperation by President Clinton will gave her valuable experience listening to diverse perspectives, while remaining independent and immune to bullying. For more on Jean please click here.

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If you haven't joined this list yet, we encourage you to give it a try. To Join ODAIRY, please follow these simple instructions.

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