Family Farmers Call On Congress, USDA To Take Immediate Action On The Dairy Crisis

Farm Aid Press Release: Farmers urge lawmakers to establish fair and competitive pricing system

WASHINGTON — More than 100 dairy farmers from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee traveled to Washington, D.C., yesterday to meet with congressional representatives and other officials to present solutions that would end the worst dairy crisis to hit America’s family dairy farmers since the Great Depression.

Dairy farmers met with members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Education and Labor Committee and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to urge immediate action to restore fairness in the dairy pricing system, enforce anti-trust laws and ensure that dairy farmers receive a fair price for their product and consumers have access to quality milk. Dairy farmers also called on the USDA to quickly distribute emergency assistance aid that was authorized by Congress and President Obama under the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill in October.

Debbie Windecker, a dairy farmer from Frankfort, N.Y., and a member of United States Dairy Farmers and Friends, traveled overnight to participate in yesterday’s meetings. “We want to know why there is such a large disparity between the price consumers pay for milk and the price paid to farmers — except for the processors in the middle, we are all losing,” said Windecker. “Dairy farmers have a message for the politicians who represent people living in rural areas and in urban areas. No matter where we come from we have a lot in common: We all eat and this crisis affects all of us.”

Nationwide, the average cost of production is about $18.00 per hundredweight, far below the average $10.78 per hundredweight dairy farmers received in the first 10 months of 2009. For more than a year, America’s dairy farmers have effectively paid to go to work, at times losing as much as $200 per cow per month. As a result, many farmers are facing record debts and many have either sold their herds or have been forced to leave the dairy business entirely.

“Our nation’s dairy farmers have headed to Washington, D.C., not to beg for handouts, but to demand justice and overhaul a broken milk pricing system,” said Joel Greeno, a dairy farmer from Kendall, Wisc. “Yet too few will make the trip; a year of absolutely deplorable milk prices has left many with no financial resources to travel. Or like me, they’re not able to find anyone to milk the cows and do the chores while they’re gone. I want Congress to know that these farmers who were able to make the trip represent us all.”

Farmers unable to travel to D.C. have committed to meet with their representatives in their home districts later this month when Congress adjourns for 2009.
Since the start of 2009, Farm Aid, along with the National Family Farm Coalition and other farmer organizations, has called attention to the dairy crisis, advocating for dairy pricing reform and anti-trust investigation. Farm Aid has met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, delivering petitions signed by more than 13,000 consumers and farmers calling for the USDA to establish a floor price for milk that covers farmers’ cost of production. Farm Aid also has made emergency assistance funds available to dairy farmers and has offered support to dairy farmers organizing local rallies to inform consumers and legislators about the impact that losing the country’s remaining 60,000 dairy farmers will have on the U.S.

“The question being asked by these farmers, on behalf of all of us, is whether we are going to have a food system that allows a level playing field for family farmers and consumers or a system of increased consolidation that puts more power into the hands of powerful corporations,” said Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid. “Dairy farmers don’t want a bailout — they simply seek a fair and competitive pricing system that allows them to stay on the land and support their families, while producing safe, fresh milk and dairy products for all of us.”

Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family-farmed food. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $36 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.

Click HERE to read more on the dairy crisis on the Farm Aid website.