Guest blogger, Jessica Peters, is a 5th generation dairy farmer in northwest Pennsylvania.
By now, most of the country knows that things aren’t great in the dairy industry. The mainstream media is reporting on dairy farms being shut off by milk processing plants, and depression and suicide rates are higher than ever among farmers.
Between animal rights extremists with their false claims and extremely low profit margins, dairy farmers are feeling less hope for the future now more than ever.
One thing dairy farmers and the industry has never been good at is expressing to the non-farm public why and how our problems could become theirs. But, this current crisis is different, and it’s vital that everyone understands that the way things are going in the dairy industry, it won’t be long before our dairy farm crisis becomes your crisis. Let me explain.
Right now, the dairy industry is experiencing an issue we’ve never experienced before but were afraid was coming. As of June 1, 2018, over 100 dairy farm families from all over the Midwest and a few eastern states won’t have a place to take their milk.
You may be thinking: That’s a sad story for those farmers, but it really doesn’t affect me. Think again. Those farmers who don’t have a place to send their milk will be forced to go out-of-business. This starts a chain-effect that will ultimately affect everyone. The cows that the dairy farmers are forced to sell will mostly likely go to slaughter for beef since the remaining dairy farmers can’t afford to buy them.
The increase in dairy cows going to slaughter will drop prices for beef, causing beef farmers to lose profit and margin. Next comes the grain farmers. Because beef farmers aren’t getting paid enough, they won’t be able to pay top price for feed, so grain farmers will be hurting.
Many grain farmers also grow vegetables. Suddenly, farms of all types are selling out because their operating costs have exceeded their profits. That means that fewer farms will be producing the food we all consume.
Slowly but surely, our food supply is becoming vertically integrated because fewer farms will be producing more food and more varieties of food. You’re probably still wondering what this has to do with you and your food.
Right now, Americans have the safest, cheapest food supply in the world. We spend less of our income on food than any other country in the world. But, the fewer farms we have producing food, the more expensive it will become, and we’ll have less varieties from which to choose. This isn’t just a problem for those of us who eat dairy foods; the dairy farm crisis is a problem for those of us who eat food.
My heart still breaks for the 140 dairy farmers who don’t know what the next two months hold for them. Most won’t find a place to send their milk because there’s no where for it to go.
The true problem is oversupply and under consumption. Dairy farmers are making more milk than ever because we’ve gotten really efficient at what we do, but fewer people are drinking it.
Thirty years ago, families ate together at the table with a pitcher of milk in the middle. That’s just not the way it is anymore.
A lot of those farm families, who aren’t unlike you, will be faced with the unthinkable. On May 31st, they will milk their cows one last time and turn off the lights for the last time. They will be forced to completely reinvent their lives and leave everything they’ve ever known behind them.
Hopefully, by now, you’re wondering how you can help. It’s pretty simple, buy more dairy foods. Talk to a local dairy farmer and find out where you can purchase their milk.
If you can’t possibly consume more milk, buy an extra gallon or two and donate it to your local food bank. Did you know that dairy products are the most requested items at food banks all over the country?
At the very least, let your local farmers know that you support them. Send a note to a farmer, post on social media or follow dairy farmers on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
As dairy farmers, we know that we chose this life. We don’t necessarily need you to thank us; we just want you to say that you trust us and purchase and enjoy the foods we produce.
God bless dairy farmers.