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Let’s stop making scapegoats out of our dairy farmers

All across the United States, various farm organizations and dairy cooperatives (including National Milk Producers) coupled with many federal legislators are screaming at dairy farmers, telling them you are producing too much milk. These dairy farmers are only doing what they have been encouraged to do for countless number of years, which is, they must produce an adequate supply of milk for our consumers! For instance, today dairy farmer production has not increased by 10 or 15 percent, but only by 1 or 2 percent.

However, I believe that more than ever, our consumers our realizing the pitfalls that the majority of our dairy farmers have been operating under for countless number of years.

Yes, we are experiencing one of the worst crises our country, our workers, and our dairy farmers have ever faced.

Consumers are realizing the importance of our production agriculture, and they know something must be done. Various proposals are being submitted to Congress and the USDA.

First, please remember that collectively, the dairy farmers in the United States were underpaid about $11 billion for each year from 2015 through 2019.

However, I’m saddened when I realize that many organizations and cooperatives are suggesting or mandating that dairy farmers produce 10 or 15 percent less milk (and sometimes a higher amount). Unfortunately these mandates are being shoved onto dairy farmers without doing anything about the prices they receive.

There is a feasible solution for our dairy farmers. After talking with many dairy farmers, Pro-Ag has put together a different, workable plan.

• A $17 Floor Price per cwt. (per hundred pounds of milk) must be placed under milk used to manufacture dairy products. The $17 would become $18 in June and July, and become $19 in August and September.

• Dairy farmers would be required to have the proceeds from 3 percent of their milk (maybe it should be 5 percent) sent to the Commodity Credit Corporation to purchase and distribute these products to needy people.

• Any dairy farmers producing less than 2 million pounds of milk annually would be exempt from forfeiting the 3 percent.

• The federal government would donate $3 per cwt. each month on the total production in each of the 11 Federal Orders to the Federal Order Pool. Each month the handlers that manufacture dairy products would be able to draw their share of the money out of the pool (as they do now). The fluid milk handlers would continue to operate in the federal orders as they do now. However, the $3 payment by the government might necessitate the fluid handlers not paying into the pool.

All these suggestions would mean the fluid handlers and the manufacturing handlers would operate the same as they do today. So every dairy farmer would be paid the statistical price as they are today.

In order for every dairy farmer to get their fair price, the fluid handlers would have to add eight or nine cents to a gallon of milk and the manufacturing handlers would have to sell their products a little higher in order for everyone to match the $17 floor price.

In Federal Order #1 dairy farmers would receive at least $18 per May’s production, not $13. This program would be evaluated no later than Sept. 15.

Please contact your U.S. Senators and member of Congress to ask them to support this program.

Arden Tewksbury is manager of Progressive Agriculture Organization.

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