The question is very simple: How much longer can the average dairy farmer endure their on-going financial crisis that the majority of dairy farmers are continuing to live with? Pennsylvania dairy farmers are being shortchanged at least $550 million dollars each year, and New York dairy farmers are facing a $650 million dollar shortfall, which should make everyone anxious to do something to correct these criminal prices that dairy farmers are facing every day. Our figures indicate that the total underpayments to all the US dairy farmers each year are approximately 12 Billion dollars.
But wait, it gets much worse. Using a multiplier of five, the total loss to our rural economy across the US is approximately 60 billion dollars per year.
I receive calls all the time indicating how horrible the situation is on the average dairy farm. I even hear women crying, I’ve heard of suicides, and on and on it goes. I can’t believe that members of Congress, other farm organizations, and even our dairy cooperatives are not receiving these kinds of calls. We have petitioned the dairy division of the USDA to have milk hearings. These requests have been denied. We have urged Congress to have several hearings involving hundreds of dairy farmers. Unfortunately these attempts have been in vain.
Earlier in 2018, the US House Ag Committee held a hearing in Washington DC. I was told all the spots were taken, and I was not allowed to testify. I drove to Washington DC and passed out the testimony to the members. Dang, they did not lie. The two spots they had were taken by Dr. Dykes of IDFA, and Jim Mulhearn from National Milk Producers. Yes, there were two spots, but not one for any dairy farmer! What a sham.
Now we have thousands of petitions that we’re going to take to the US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, urging him to have immediate hearings for dairy farmers and urge him to take further action. On top of these problems, we are now receiving word that some dairy farmers shipping to a dairy coop in the Northeast are receiving a 60 day notice to find a new market. What the devil is going to happen next?
Furthermore, we are receiving additional word that several Agri-businesses that serve dairy farmers are having problems getting refinancing, just like the dairy farmers are experiencing. What about the present administration? They may have helped many people, but they sure haven’t helped the dairy farmers. Now many of the best dairy farmers are crying the blues.
We must ask, where are our agriculture leaders in Washington? In the Senate, where is Senator Leahey and where is our friend Sen. Bob Casey? And what has happened to good ole Sen. Bernie Sanders? He was always going to fight for the dairy farmers. Where is Sen. Gillibrand? I thought she was supposed to be the champion for dairy farmers. What has happened to her?
What about the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts? He promised me he would always stand up for dairy farmers.
Now we have Rep. Collin Peterson, Chair of the House Ag Committee. Pro-Ag recommended Rep. Peterson for the Chairmanship. We believe that Rep. Peterson is a good man for dairy farmers, but he must divorce himself away from some of the silly things that some of his members are advocating and concentrate on doing something more for the dairy farmers.
Time is running out, and with spring around the corner, and with nothing being done for dairy farmers, you may witness hundreds, maybe even thousands of dairy farmers being forced out of business. With all these problems facing dairy farmers, it is having an adverse effect on our beef farmers.
These conditions, all these problems, will be something for our leaders to bear on their conscience.
Arden Tewksbury is the manager of Pro-Ag, 1300 Rattlesnake Hill Road, Meshoppen, Pa. Its phone number is 570-833-5776.