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It has been said that trying to get farmers to agree on dairy policy is like herding cats – they just always splinter off in all directions. But I am happy to say that I witnessed dairy farmers coming together with a united voice during the Dairy Summit in Albany, NY back in mid-August. The meeting was sponsored by Agri- Mark Dairy Cooperative, CoBank, and Farm Credit East; it drew over 400 conventional and organic dairy farmers, representatives from other coops, ag lenders, and even a few politicians. A few were from as far away as California and Maine. A group of farmers from Wisconsin chartered a bus for the 18-hour trip. Most drove in from New York, Pennsylvania, and New England. There was real consensus that farmers must control the supply through their coops to effectively stabilize the price. Some well thought-out proposals were presented to the group. I am not sure that one proposal won out over the others that day; farmers were energized to think of a fair system that would allow the survival of their farms, and most of the plans would do that. Most of the farmers there were conventional, now in their 4th year of low prices; the fear and desperation were palpable. They would agree because they had to do something together.
And those decisions that will be made to control the free-fall in conventional prices will, in turn, affect our organic bottom line as well; for our two milk markets are tied together as processors balance into the conventional market. I encourage you to visit www.dairyproposals2018.com to read the proposals, and add your questions or comments.
It is hard to gather the energy to feel optimistic during these times. On our farm, we keep falling a bit farther behind each month under current pay prices. We feel that we have left the ranks of the organic consumer for we can no longer afford to buy organic food ourselves. If we don’t grow it, we can’t afford to buy it. Hmm, just like the old days as a conventional dairy farmer. I can walk in these familiar shoes, but I don’t like it much.
One of the things to recognize is that we need the support of other farmers so we don’t feel so isolated and alone. We need to share ideas, give a voice to our frustrations and fears, and help each other through these tough times.
And I get it. Money is tight, there’s never enough time; hired labor is another expense. But, I still hope to see as many of you as possible at the 18th Annual NODPA Field Days in Knoxville, Maryland on September 27th and 28th. There are lots of details in this newsletter about the program, Tools for Survival: Weathering the Current Dairy Crisis While Maintaining Organic Integrity. And be sure to use Nora’s Early Bird Rate – you don’t even have to send money right away, just tell us you are coming! If you just can’t make it this year, remember that we are having a farmer panel discussing ideas that are helping our bottom line. If you would like to share your idea, email or phone Ed, Nora, or myself (all of our contact information is on page two). Wishing you all a bountiful harvest!
Posted: to Industry News on Sat, Sep 1, 2018
Updated: Sat, Sep 1, 2018