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5 December 2009 - Could We Survive the Dairy Farmer's Challenges?

A few days ago I received a letter from Dale Anderson. He's a dairy farmer in Randolph, New York who milks 80 to 90 cows on his dairy farm. He has heard me talking about the challenge facing hog and dairy producers and he shared with me a presentation he made at the New York State Senate Hearing on "Saving the Dairy Industry in New York" last month. The hearing was chaired by Senator Cathy Young and three other state senators. He was one of four dairy farmers asked to make a presentation and he described the plight of dairy farmers from first-hand experience.

This is some of what he said. . . "As long as the store shelves are well stocked at a low price to the consumer, and people well-fed, most people, politicians included, aren't very concerned with the plight of the dairy farmer.

"In the month of July 2008 my milk receipts were in excess of $22,000. In the same month of 2009, they were less than $8000. How many of you could stand a $14,000/month cut in pay? I can't either!! I have virtually hit the wall as far as being able to run a profitable dairy operation. I am on a cash-on-delivery basis with my feed supplier. I have been forced to cut back considerably on the amount of protein grain I feed my cows and have entirely quit feeding corn meal.

"Several times I have had to pay my electric bill with post-dated checks to keep the power on to milk my cows. For the last four months my wife has had to cook with a hot plate and no oven as I owe over $1,700 for propane gas and they will not deliver without full cash payment. When Senator Young called me to invite me to speak at this forum, I was glad I had just paid the disconnect notice on my telephone bill or we wouldn't even be able to have this conversation!

"Some banks are no longer making farm loans. . . I still owe part or all of my bills for last spring's planting. I have also not paid for the cost of harvesting my corn silage. At the present time, my checking account is in an overdrawn balance. My wife has maxed out her credit cards trying to keep the farm afloat."

This is a heart-breaking story told by New York dairyman Dale Anderson, and making it even worse, is the fact there are many others who, I know, are living a similar story. Milk futures are beginning to show a price recovery and a return to break-even by next summer. But that may not be soon enough for many of our friends who milk cows. Think kindly of those people the next time you enjoy a pizza, an ice cream sundae or drink a cold glass of milk.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.