Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dairy farmers consider slaughter, milk dumping

The depressed milk market has put dairy farmers in dire straits; many are burning through their life savings, and two farmers have killed themselves, Jerry Hirsch reports for the Los Angeles Times. California farmer Tom Marchy, left, sold his herd of 1,100 Holsteins and began planting corn instead. (Times photo by Gary Kazanjian)

Milk prices are roughly half of the cost of production – “Every carton sold in the supermarket represents a loss on the farm,” Hirsch writes. In most of 2008, the milk price hovered around $17 per 100 pounds, but when the economy tanked in the fall, that price dropped to $10. Hirsch reports that “Farmers generally need at least $16, and often more, per 100 pounds to break even.”

Advocates like the National Family Farm Coalition continue to rally for more measures like emergency floor prices to protect the 57,000 dairy farmers nationwide. Slaughtering milk cows is one option supported by Cooperative Working Together, a voluntary organization in Arlington, Va.,. which is sending about 103,000 milk cows to slaughter over the next several months to reduce the milk supply by about 1 percent. Some dairy farmers are also considering dumping their milk. "If they are not going to allow us to make a living, we will just dump it down the drain," Arie DeJong, who owns several dairies and 20,000 cows in California and Arizona, told Hirsch. "We just can't keep losing money like this." (Read more)

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