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‘We’re worthless’: Shrinking market threatens dairy farmer’s livelihood

It’s a tough time for dairy farmers with dropping milk prices and less consumption. They’re scraping the barrel and for some, it’s proven to be too much.

We first reported on the dropping milk prices in March. Months later, things aren’t any better. Dairy farmers are as broke as ever and now they’re asking for help.

“I say we’re worthless,” said Betsy Musser, owner of Den Be Farm.

Over 30 years in dairy farming and that’s how she feels about her business. Not because she’s not proud of Den Be Farm, but because the market for dairy is shrinking.

“We’re producing more and more milk but consumption’s dropping,” Musser said.

To put it simply, not enough people are drinking milk and it’s affecting prices.

Musser said she gets less than $16 for every hundred pounds of milk. That’s not even breaking even.

“We’re going paycheck to paycheck and then it’s still not covering anything,” she said. “If we weren’t relatively debt-free, I don’t know how we would afford to keep going.”

That stress is being felt nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control says farmers have the highest rate of suicide than any other job field — and it’s no secret.

“They’re going broke and they’re getting numbers in their milk checks, saying, ‘If you’re having trouble dealing with this, here’s some assistance. You can call these numbers for help hotlines,'” Musser said.

Even in these tough times, Musser hasn’t considered shutting down. To her, it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle — one she hopes to continue for years to come.

You can help dairy farmers by buying more milk. Even if you don’t drink much of it, you can always donate to local food banks.

If you have questions for farmers, ask them. Finding one at a local farm is a great place to start.

Farmers who are struggling can call the Farm Aid Hotline at 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Farm Crisis Center offers a local resource network for farmers so they can find help close to home.


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