NFFC Leader Arden Tewksbury: Federal Policies Hurt Dairy Operations

Last updated: March 03. 2015 6:20PM – 691 Views

Lifelong Northeastern Pennsylvania dairy farmer Arden Tewksbury said Tuesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show that dairy farmers across the country are struggling to cover the high cost of feed and other inputs on their farms.In a teleconference, representatives of the National Family Farm Coalition said the federal milk pricing formula leaves dairy farmers unable to pay their basic costs of production. Equally important they said, was the damage to support businesses which fold when dairy farmers do not make enough money to pay them.

With compensation for milk having dropped 85 cents per gallon since Nov. 2014, dairy farmers across the country believe the the impact of the reduction will negatively impact their families and communities in the short and long term.

“In my experience consumers are surprised to learn the formula used by United States Department of Agriculture does not take into consideration the cost of production,” said Tewksbury, of Meshoppen. “Farmers understand, consumers understand, but the government does not.”

“In 1981 when the formula was implemented, there were almost 200,000 dairy farmers in our country,” he said. “Today there are only 45,000.”

Tewksbury said the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, promised assurances to farmers that have not materialized.

“For example, the Margin Protection Program (margin insurance) designed to help farmers deal with prolonged periods of low margins, has not been as helpful to farmers as originally anticipated and not all farmers have opted to participate,” he said.

Kathy Ozer of the farm coalition said USDA assurances that exporting would increase farming profitability didn’t pan out.

“Exporting farm products was touted as the salvation of the American farmer,” said Ozer. “But that market has dried up.”

The conference also addressed negative publicity about milk and milk products in the media and amid nutritional advocates.

Tewksbury said not only does the sale of dairy products benefit the economy, it keeps people healthy.

Nina Teicholz, author of the New York Times best seller, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet,” told the teleconference recent trends toward avoiding fat and dairy products have left farmers financially strapped and the public undernourished.

“Even the American Heart Association has withdrawn its warning regarding the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease,” she said.

Tewksbury said he drank milk all his life and believes it has been a healthy choice.

“Hot cocoa for breakfast, whole milk in my coffee, all that,” he said.

Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLNews.

Originally posted at:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-local-news/152137781/