Letter From A Dairy Farmer

August 14, 2009 at 11:45 am (By Maxwell James)

I have no idea what (if anything) should be done about this, but it’s hard not to be concerned. Thoughts?

Addendum: Here’s some background.


  1. Randy said,

    As we have a couple of dairy farmers who visit here regularly, I’d be interested in hearing what they know about that letter before advancing my own reasonably uniformed opinion.

  2. amba12 said,

    Yes! I was so happy to see that Karen was back — but, Karen, I know you don’t have a computer at home now and you’re probably going on line occasionally at the library or a friend’s. Don’t leave us!! Hopefully the title of this post will attract Karen’s attention (and maybe Spud’s too — at least I have his e-mail address) and she will have something to say about it. I’ll also show it to friends here who recently sold their dairy herd in NC to a farm in New England.

    Karen and Spud are organic producers, which may be the future for small family dairy farms; but it isn’t easy, cheap, or quick to convert.

  3. amba12 said,

    Oops! Spoke too soon. Just went to Maxwell’s second link.

    I wonder if some of our conservative commentators have something to say on the big-ification of farming in America, compared to the Jeffersonian ideal, and the complicity of government in favoring the large, chemified, and mechanized. What of those who see the future going in the other other direction — towards land restoration, family recommitment to farming, local and organic produce? Are they all on the left? It would certainly be saner in terms of both health and energy, but how do we get there? The oil and fertilizer industry, long-distance trucking, patented seeds, weed-killers — all are examples of the downside of market forces and surreptitious government complicity therein. But is it unavoidable when you’re trying to feed a mass population affordably?

  4. Donna B. said,

    One story is about organic dairy farmers, but the other is about conventional dairy farmers (unless I missed something) so the issue is essentially supply/demand.

    Demand for both have fallen but somewhere along the way, the low prices the farmers are getting have not made it to the store shelves. It’s sort of like the way gasoline prices never quite track the decline in oil prices nearly as well as they do increases.

    I don’t think this particular problem has anything to do with the physical way food is produced, but with a marketing/middleman thing…… or perhaps it’s a futures market thing? I don’t pretend to understand either area.

    Amba, a certain level of “large, chemified, and mechanized” is unavoidable if we’re going to feed a mass population, period. Affordability is going to require more, or more acceptance of new technologies such as genetic modification of food crops.

  5. PatHMV said,

    The clear implication of the article is that people in general are unwilling to pay a price premium for locally-produced milk. Here in Baton Rouge, we have the Kleinpeter dairy, which as far as I can tell is going exceedingly well. It’s a company, not just one farm, but it’s hardly a giant agribusiness, and they make a huge selling point of not using rBGH growth hormone in their cows. They are doing so well, in fact, that they’ve just introduced a line of locally-made ice cream. It does cost more than the store-brand milk, but there seems to be enough folks in town willing to pay the difference.

    As Donna notes, a certain level of mass-production is essential, unless we want to reduce the population (i.e., starve people to death or drastically restrict the reproduction rate).

    While I sympathize with the plight of these folks, their basic complaint is that other people are able to make and distribute their product cheaper than they can. They want taxpayers and consumers to subsidize their farm by paying higher prices for milk (or higher taxes in general) than they would otherwise have to pay. I can’t support that.

    Now perhaps, because of the already intricate federal involvement in the farm industry, there is some case to be made for tinkering with some of those regulations, I don’t know. But the reality is that those rules were largely written back when somewhere between 50% and 70% of the workforce worked on farms; today it’s a very small fraction of that, thanks to new technology in equipment, crops, fertilizers, and pesticides.

  6. Donna B. said,

    I think there are people of a certain mindset that do want to reduce the population, by whatever means.

  7. karen said,

    Amba, i came back to see if you’d seen ME– not to read this letter from Janice, but even if it is a fake(& i’d bet my bottom teeth that it is NOT, it is so real) it hits the nail on the head about the struggle that’s happening to farmers across the board. It’s funny to me, though– that the bigger farms are finally feeling the crunch. Usually(IMhO, anyway) time has a way of picking off the family farms and not the giants- so, the struggle is localized, a bit of dumping milk– holloring for a tad- then no more story.

    Now, the bigger farms are hurting and all of a sudden, it’s a crisis. Hmmm. Janice doesn’t seem to be in that group at all, she’s convential, but she’s a husband/wife operation and hurting. Yeah, life sucks.

    So, i would like to say so much more and spud will lovelovelove this debate, but we have to go home so we can get up at 3:15 and do this all over again. “tis a calling, for sure. If you could see the amount of pee and poop bovine that i’m covered w/when i get done milking on these hot days— all i can say is, i clean up pretty decent(ly). love you.

  8. karen said,

    ps– we’d have a milk shortage, if i understand this correctly- or a dairy products shortage if we would just stop the imports of dairy products and byproducts. That screws w/our bottom line, too. Bernie Sanders has campaigned for so many yrs on the backs of farmers, how he’d help us. Fix the freakin’system, Bernie. As for Organic, it is all about supply and demand. If the farmers would just work TOGETHER, people, then we’d have control over our bottom line. Just my opine againe:0).

  9. Spud said,

    Wow!! I didn’t know you were still blogging Annie. Karen told me recently that you ditched Amba and moved to Ambiance. Karen, Bernie would be you hero if he was not a liberal. He can’t really do anything about the milk pricing other than call attention to the crookedness that goes on in the dairy industry. The sad part is most dairy farmers don’t even understand how their milk is priced. There’s no free market when all you have is a couple of players that set the price for the entire country that farmers receive. I got a $1,20 a gallon for milk in 1980. 2009 milk prices paid to farmers is .86 cents a gallon. What did the consumer pay for a gallon of milk in 1980 vs. 2009? Farmers and consumers are being ripped off by the processors and retailers. Simple as that.

  10. Randy said,

    Nice to see you, Spud! Please come by more often.

  11. amba12 said,

    Spuddy!!! So good to have you back. Karen, a big hug. Guys, don’t go away . . . I’ve got a bovine s**tload of work this minute and can’t say much but I’m so glad to see you both.

  12. Spud said,

    Thanks Annie and Randy.

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