The voices speaking out Tuesday on behalf of dairy farmers were loud and clear: low milk prices are making it difficult to survive.
One by one, farmers and others shared stories and woes of the industry at the Dairy Farm Family Crisis Hearing, held at the local fire hall.
“Give these farmers a fair price for their milk,” said Arden Tewksbury, general manager of Progressive Agriculture Organization.
He blamed politicians for allowing the demise of dairy farming, particularly the small farms.
“Everything that is good for dairy farming they get rid of,” he said.
Tewksbury and others also blamed the dairy cooperatives.
Cooperatives are businesses owned, operated and controlled by dairy farmers who are meant to benefit from its services, sharing in profits in proportion to the volume of milk they market through the cooperative.
Gerald Carlin, a former dairy farmer, said it hasn’t worked out that way.
Dairy farmers, he said, continue to lose everything, including hope.
“Cooperatives aren’t standardized across the nation,” said Judy Oliver, a lifelong dairy farmer. “We don’t know which ones are better for farmers.”
Donny Rovenolt, owner of a farm equipment business in Watsontown, said he has seen first-hand how dairy farmers are struggling.
“I am really concerned about small dairy farmers,” said Rovenolt, of Rovendale Ag & Barn Inc. “Every day, we are losing more farmers.”
He said he increasingly finds himself extending credit to farmers who otherwise cannot afford buying equipment.
Brenda Cochran, president of Farm Women United, said farmers must unite to fight for reasonable milk prices.
“You’ve got to be able to make money at what you are doing,” Oliver said.
Tewksbury noted a small percentage of dairy farmers produce the majority of the milk consumed by the public.
Various regulations over the years have ended up hurting dairy farmers.
“Our elected officials have a lot of blood on their hands for allowing the demise of dairy farming,” he said.
Carlin said dairy farmers are ignored by their elected officials and are up against the forces of government and lobbyists who are not looking out for their best interests.
Also addressing the hearing was Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and RealMilk.com.
She called for the increased sales of unpasteurized, or raw, milk.
She noted how dairy farmers such as she and her husband produce raw milk to turn a profit.
Morell touted the healthy benefits of raw milk and said pasteurization removes many of the nutrients from milk.
“Every single vitamin is reduced,” she said.
But raw milk has its critics.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can cause illnesses or even prove to be fatal.
Morell boldly predicted that people will be drinking nothing but raw milk in 20 years.
Raw milk sales are legal on the farm and in retail stores in Pennsylvania. But many other states outlaw its sales.