June 5, 2017
At a press conference held at the Perkins Restaurant in Tunkhannock, Arden Tewksbury, Manager of Progressive Agriculture Organization (Pro-Ag) announced that several farm organizations, milk cooperatives, and county commissioners have petitioned the USDA in Washington DC asking for a national milk hearing for all dairy farmers. The petition clearly asks the Department of Agriculture to conduct milk hearings that would allow the average dairy farmer to testify and illustrate the severity of the problems that the majority of dairy farmers are experiencing.
For instance, in 2016 the average dairy farmer shipping milk to a milk handler that was regulated under one of the ten federal milk marketing orders received an average price of $15.38 per cwt. (hundredweight). At the same time, the USDA’s figures clearly illustrate that the national average cost of producing milk in 2016 was $21.87 per cwt. This means the average dairy farmer lost $6.49 per cwt. (or 60 cents per gallon) on all their milk produced in 2016.
Some of the organizations sending support letters for the petition were National Family Farm Coalition, National Grange, Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid, Family Farm Defenders and RAFI-USA, along with Food and Water Watch. Regional organizations sending letters of support were the Pennsylvania State Grange, the NY State Grange, the Pennsylvania Farmers Union, the Susquehanna County Farm Bureau and Progressive Agriculture Organization.
Dairy Cooperatives who signed the letter include Middlebury Cooperative (Tioga County, Pennsylvania), Milk Producers Association Inc., and the Tioga Valley Milk Cooperative. Equally important was the support given to the petition by the following Pennsylvania county commissioners: Pike County, Wayne County, Susquehanna County, Wyoming County, Bradford County, Sullivan County, and Union County. Also submitted to the department was a petition signed by the commissioners of ten counties that went to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, US Senators and US Members of Congress on May 27, 2016.
The main thrust of the petition calls for the abolishing of the present pricing formula used by the USDA to price milk. Our suggestion is for a new pricing formula to be developed that would consider the dairy farmers’ cost of producing milk (which is badly needed.)
Arden Tewksbury, Manager of Pro-Ag, may be reached at 570-833-5776.