“The nation’s dairy farmers are facing their fourth year of depressed milk prices. The outlook is so bleak, it’s increased worries about farmer suicides. One recent outreach effort drew criticism.”
Source: As Milk Prices Decline, Worries About Dairy Farmer Suicides Rise : NPR
The situation for dairy farmers in 2017 was not good. A lot of diary operations are running right on the edge, trying to stay profitable at a time when there is ever shrinking demand for liquid milk for drinking, and a glut of other dairy products like cheese, butter and powdered milk. This story above from NPR illustrates just how bad the situation is getting. Go read the article if you have the time. It isn’t very long.
If you don’t have the time, here’s a brief summary: A dairy co-op in the north east US, Agri-Mark, has seen three of it’s farmer members commit suicide in the last few years. Agri-Mark makes Cabot cheese among other products, and has about 1,000 members. In February when it sent out the milk checks, it included a chart showing just how bad the dairy market was looking for the upcoming year, and a list of suicide prevention hotlines. The reporter talked with Will Rogers, who milks 75 cows in Massachusetts, who is having a difficult time keeping above water. Even more upsetting is the fact that his own father who used to own the farm, killed himself because of financial problems.
While the letter from Agri-Mark was probably well intentioned, it certainly added to the stress a lot of it’s farmers are already facing and Rogers says in the article, it might push some farmers so far that they think “there’s no point in going on.” Agri-Mark certainly could have done a better job of trying to communicate with it’s farmer members.
And as if dairy farmers don’t have enough problems, they are increasingly worried about being able to sell their milk at all. Dean Foods just told at least two dozen farmers in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and four other states that Dean will no longer take their milk as of May 31, leaving them scrambling to find a milk processor they can sell their milk to.
The same thing happened here in Wisconsin last year about this time when Grassland rather abruptly dumped a group of farmers, leaving them to desperately try to find a market for their milk.
The article at Dairy Management about Dean seems to be trying to blame Walmart for Dean’s decision. Walmart used to buy it’s in-house brand milk from Dean, but Walmart is building it’s own milk processing facility in Indiana which will come on-line in May, so Dean is going to be losing a significant amount of sales as Walmart switches to product coming from it’s own production facility.
Certainly there is enough blame to go around, but everyone is ignoring the fact that the real reason behind almost all of the money difficulties dairy farmers are having is over production. They are producing more product than the market really wants, which is pushing prices down lower and lower.
There are various marketing boards, government agencies and others trying to help the situation, but almost all of them are focusing on one thing, trying to increase sales of a product that increasingly people don’t really want, and shouldn’t be eating much of. At at time when a recent study just found that 75% of the people in this area are overweight, we have government agencies and marketing boards trying to convince food makers to shovel ever more cheese into their products.
Seventy-five percent. Think about that for a moment. We are facing a national health crisis due to people eating too much of what is bad for them, with government agencies and others trying to figure out how to help people get their weight under control, and at the same time other government agencies and marketing specialists are trying to get food manufacturers to drastically increase the amount of cheese they use in their products.
5 thoughts on “As Milk Prices Decline, Worries About Dairy Farmer Suicides Rise : NPR”
It’s terrible to be the gravel that gets crushed when the market rolls over you into a new direction.
Is sugar suffering? Sugar is another one of those super successful lobbies that managed to direct an entire research field in the wrong direction. Sugar is worse than fat for humans. But all the published and touted research pointed at fats for decades. Sugar was all about funding that research.
Not that dairy is really a good thing for humans. But their lobby was good at making it feel like it.
The sugar industry has it’s issues as well, and the sugar market is messed with by the government even worse than the dairy industry is. But sugar production is concentrated more in the hands of a very few companies.
As for dairy, the whole system is so screwed up that I’m not sure if it can be fixed as it exists today. It is going to take a fundamental change in the system to get this straightened out and I doubt if that will happen in the US because there are too many people and companies that would lose money if it did change.
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I was going to suggest that a total collapse might change it but then I remembered the Financial Industry.
I used to think the situation would change, but I don’t know. The whole industry from the farmers to the processors to the consumers have so much invested in this current system that it would be financially painful to change it. As for a total collapse, I doubt if that would happen. It would take an extraordinary set of circumstances to bring the whole thing down, and I suspect the government would step in before then because the dairy industry wields an enormous amount of clout in Washington and in a lot of states like Wisconsin.
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