Dairy Farmer Gretchen Maine Outlines Price Issues for Members of Congress

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
whinniesg@aol.com
315‐861‐5721

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entire letter may be read here.

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