Gretchen Maine, a New York dairy farmer, wrote a letter to Congress outlining the basic problems faced by dairy producers today – prices received for their do not cover the costs for producing it.
March 4, 2013
To: All Members of Congress
From: Gretchen Maine, Dairy Farmer
143 Mason Rd.
Waterville, NY 13480
I just want to bring you up to date on how it is down on the farm. IT IS NOT GOOD. We are seriously considering throwing in the towel as are my daughter and son‐in‐law. Their kids are heartbroken. We have a neighbor who is considering selling his cows as well because his corn crop is worth more money to sell than it is to run through his cows.
As you know, feed prices are going out of this world and milk prices are in the gutter once again. Ethanol is taking at least one‐third of the corn and helping to drive the price up. According to Andy Dugan, Director of Dairy for Kent Nutrition, formerly Blue Seal, formerly IL Richer, soy has gone up more than $80 a ton in six months. The high cost of feed in June and July was due to corn and soy. Now in August, wheat bi‐products are soaring because of corn and soy. When I talked to him two weeks ago he said that feed would be going up significantly on Mon and that our feed would be going up by $40 a ton. We got feed that same day to avoid the increase. When our bill came it was still up $50 a ton from our last load three weeks prior to that. So the total increase would have been $90 a ton. THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE on $13 milk, which is what our advance check on July 27 was. We got $14.45 less $1.50 hauling etc. equals $12.95 spendable money.
Our advance check used to pay the feed bill, the phone bill, and the truck insurance. This past year it has barely covered the feed bill. In July it was $1200 short of covering just the feed bill. I have a friend who milks 250 cows and their milk check was $6000 short to pay their feed bill. THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.
In July of 2010 our feed was $262 a ton and milk was $18.07 per 100 lbs.
In July of 2011 our feed was $360 a ton and milk was $24.03 per 100 lbs.
In July of 2012 our feed was $400 a ton and milk was $14.45 per 100 lbs.
In Aug of 2012 our feed is $490 a ton and milk is $16.45 per 100 lbs.
On top of all this, because of the drought we have nowhere near enough feed to go through the winter. Our corn is looking better, but we have very little hay. My guess is that we will be out of hay by January 1. Not only were we “victimized” by the weather, but we were also “victimized” by a “land grabber”. Most of our baled hay used to come from a neighboring farm as we chop most of our own first cutting. This year we didn’t get that land because a so‐called neighbor wanted to grow more corn.
I talked to a Farm Service Agency staff person last week and she told me that she couldn’t believe what’s going on out there. She said she’s never seen anything like it. People who have had land for years and years have lost it to “land grabbers” because of the corn situation. She also told me that after the July 27 milk checks she has never heard so much despair out there. So many farmers don’t know what they’re going to do and will probably have to sell out. Our livestock dealer said that his phone is ringing off the wall with farmers wanting to sell out. Of course the big guys are happy as pigs in crap because they can just keep buying up neighboring farms for places to spread their CAFO manure.
I am not going to push S‐1640 because everyone who knows me knows that I feel that it is the only bill out there that will truly help the dairy situation. I am still going to push for a cost of production because that is the only thing that will keep us alive. We cannot buy $500 cow feed on $13 milk.
I am against the Dairy Security Act. For starters National Milk Producers does not speak for me or the majority of the farmers in this country ‐ they just have unlimited money to hire lobbyists
and fill the back pockets of our politicians.
Once again, I am going to ask the question. With the Dairy Security Act the supply management part would be “voluntary”; that is you would “volunteer” for five years. That’s voluntary??? You would have your margin insurance partially paid for by the taxpayers. If you wanted enough insurance to maybe cover your losses, you could pick up the rest. Another item of interest is that five out of the nine largest crop insurance companies are owned by foreign companies from Australia, Bermuda, and Switzerland. Will they be the ones covering milk losses? Wouldn’t the taxpayers’ money be better spent directly helping the farmers who spend their money in their own communities, rather than sending it to foreign countries? We really need a fair pricing system. We really DO NOT want to be a welfare class, but are pushed into it by a government pricing system that guarantees the processors a cost of production, but not the farmers who produce the milk. Now the question, what is going to stop the big guys from balancing the milk supply on the backs of the little guys who “volunteer”? I asked that question of a Dairylea rep and she said, “Oh, we don’t think that will happen”. Excuse me? This is a quote from National Milk Producers that appeared in Country Folks. “The dairy policy provisions in the Senate and House bills are tied to the critical difference between the farmer’s milk price and the cost of feed. When the margin contracts to dangerously low levels, those who volunteer will be insured against these low margins AND THEY ARE ALSO EXPECTED TO TRIM THEIR MILK OUTPUT UNTIL MARGINS REACH HEALTHY LEVELS.” To me that means that the “volunteers” have to cut back their production and the non‐volunteers can just keep cranking it out.
In conclusion, we need a plan that includes a cost of production. We cannot survive without it. If there is a supply management part then all dairy farmers need to be included or it won’t work. It will just starve out the “volunteers”. Gee, it sounds like S‐1640 to me!! When we started on this adventure forty‐five years ago we had such big dreams for our farm. Charlie is the third generation here and even though I was not born a farm kid, I was born to farm. We always felt that if we worked hard enough we could make those dreams a reality. We have worked harder than anyone you will ever know. We have never even had a vacation. Even at our ages we still out‐work anyone on the road. The cruel reality is that no matter how hard you work, you are doomed because of a flawed milk pricing system. We marched towards our vision up until 1981 when parity was frozen. It’s been downhill ever since. You just can’t keep up when your input costs keep going up and there is no way that you can get your cost of production, much less make any profit with the flawed pricing system that we have.
At one time there were eighteen farms on this road. There was more milk produced here than in all the rest of the county. Fourteen farms on my road are gone. Two of us might sell out and one sold 35 cows to keep going. THIS IS JUST NOT RIGHT.