Farm groups collaborate on proposals for addressing the dairy crisis at the Dairy Together Roadshow
April 4, 2019
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) is joining farm organizations across the country in presenting proposals that could slow the loss of family dairy farms. The Dairy Together Roadshow will educate dairy farmers and industry stakeholders about potential pathways toward market stabilization.
Several states are hosting sessions of the Roadshow. Minnesota’s will be held on Tuesday, April 16, from 10 a.m. – noon at the Greenwald Pub, 310 1st Ave. N., Greenwald.
Dairy Together is a collaboration between Farmers Union and the National Farmers Organization (NFO). The groups will present research on plans that consider federal milk order system reform via a structured dairy pricing program, as well as avenues of oversupply management through an updated version of the Dairy Market Stabilization Program that was considered for the 2014 Farm Bill.
Recognizing the urgency of the situation dairy farmers are facing, they also will unveil plans for short-term emergency relief.
“Our current milk marketplace is not getting family dairy farmers a fair income. We have a major surplus of milk, and too many dairies have had to close,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “We need long-term solutions that will make dairying a sustainable income for any size farm, and we look forward to sharing the research done about it.”
Farm income analysis
Last winter, Wisconsin Farmers Union enlisted dairy economists Mark Stephenson from the University of Wisconsin and Chuck Nicholson from Cornell University to conduct an Analysis of Selected Dairy Programs to Reduce Volatility in Milk Prices and Farm Income. The Roadshow will share the researchers’ data on several potential programs’ impacts on net farm operating income, farm numbers, domestic demand and cost to the government versus the Margin Protection Program.
“The bottom line on what we found was generally pretty positive in terms of thinking of what these programs could do,” Nicholson said. “We saw reduced variation in prices and also some price enhancement, increased net farm operating incomes, reduction in the rate of farm exits across farms of all sizes and a reduction in government expenditures on dairy programs.”
A structured dairy pricing program
USDA data shows that production costs are higher for smaller dairies than for very large ones. NFO proposes modifying the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) by recognizing the differences in costs to produce milk on differing farm sizes. The policy would change the way money pooled on the FMMO would be distributed, allocating funds to dairy farmers at two tiers based on milk marketing volume.
“The marketing orders were originally created in the 1930s to level the dairy farmer playing field and improve prices paid to producers. But now, the order system no longer achieves its original goals,” said National Farmers Organization Dairy Sales Director Dick Bylsma. “If milk marketing orders can recognize differing product values, it can also recognize different production costs on various farm sizes.”
Collaborating for change
“Given the dire state of the U.S. dairy economy, it is crucial that dairy farmers bring along processors and consumers to find workable solutions to this crisis,” said National Farmers Union Vice President Patty Edelburg, who is a Wisconsin dairy farmer. “Structural change can only be accomplished with a strong set of supporters. We’re excited to expand this campaign to reach a broader group of stakeholders and better understand the unique needs of dairy farmers in different regions.”
Sign up for updates, register for the event and learn more at www.dairytogether.com. You may also RSVP by contacting MFU Membership and Outreach Director Bruce Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 288-4064.
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org).