cows in field

From the President’s Desk

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Board President

It’s been a difficult spring in our neck of the woods, and across much of the northeast. Heavy rains have come too frequently all spring and into the summer. Even well-drained fields were impassable for the timely harvest of first cutting forages, and the planting of corn and small grains has been seriously delayed. Some fields in my area are still left unplanted, just growing up to weeds. We have managed to tippy-toe around the higher parts of hayfields to get some first cutting baleage done, trying to limit scarring the fields with ruts.

Although we try to not let it get to us, we snap a little too much at each other in the barn. We are desperately frustrated to get machinery fixed because more rain is coming in a few short hours. The bills are piling up, since the milk check cannot cover spring expenses. And we lose our minds when the heifers are out ……. again. And then the mail comes.

Another price cut. The greatest damage to us will be the re-structuring of the quality program. Reverting back to the program that was in place before 2007, this processor will tie the three counts (SPC, PI, and SCC) back together. We all remember how difficult it was to get any premiums in those days, and NODPA and others lobbied hard to have those tests stand separately. My son asked, “how bad will it be for us?” So I did the math. We have good quality milk, and always receive a good premium; but the new cut offs will take back most of that -- maybe all of it in some months. On our small farm that will amount to around $1,800 per month.

I have spent most of the last few months saying to everyone around me that it could be worse. We could be flooded out like the farms in the Midwest, or too dry like the farms in western Canada, or have no milk market at all like the farmers who got a letter cutting them off. We must count the blessings, and stay focused on the positive. But today I have no words.

There has always been a sign on the milkhouse from our organic milk processor. It has been a different sign over the years, as we shipped to a few different processors, but it has always been there. I guess we were proud to be an organic dairy; we felt we were part of something that was moving farmers ahead. We felt part of a movement towards better health for consumers, better care of the land, better care of the animals and a better livelihood for farmers. We felt like we were helping to make a difference. Today the sign came down. Not out of anger, but out of sadness. A giant corporation will not read this rant of mine; will not ever notice our milkhouse wall, and will not worry how we will cope with a smaller milk check and rising costs.