I am writing this letter on behalf of the 13,500 members of the Ohio State Grange. I wish to respond to an article from the Oct. 18 issue (“Ohio milk producers not convinced compacts work”). I am very concerned about the inaccuracies in that article. The Ohio State Grange believes that Ohio dairy farmers are supportive of Ohio joining the Northeast Dairy Compact.
In fact, dairy compacts have been found to be an economic multiplier, helping to strengthen rural economies by benefiting other farmers, agribusiness and the local tax base. Production of milk uses many local inputs and services. For every dollar of dairy farm income, $2.29 of additional income is generated. For every employee on a dairy farm, another 1.52 jobs are created locally.
In the Northeast, statistics compiled by the New England Agricultural Statistics Service for 1998-2000, well into the active period of the compact, demonstrated below-average losses of farms in New England. The data clearly show the number of farms lost and the percentage rate of decline has improved since the installation of the compact. In the three-year period before the compact (1995-1997), there were 572 dairy farms lost in the New England area, a loss rate of 5.2 percent. From 1998-2000, after the compact was enacted, there was a loss rate of 4.4 percent.
The compact has helped to slow the loss of dairy farms, primarily due to the fact that the compact has distributed more than $140 million in over-order payments badly needed by the dairy farmers in the northeast region.
Based upon 2000′s milk production, if Ohio had been a part of the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact, Ohio dairy farmers would have received additional payments of more than $41.1 million, or an average of more than $9,000 per farmer.
Ohio Farm Bureau needs to demonstrate the leadership and vision necessary to support the future of Ohio dairy farmers and help us to enact dairy compact legislation in Ohio, and to actively promote the reauthorization of the Northeast Dairy Compact. A first step would be to support the Concurrent Resolution No. 32 presently in the Ohio House of Representatives. HRC 32, introduced by Rep. L. George Distel of Ashtabula County, supports the reauthorization of the Northeast Dairy Compact.
We have to stop listening to the pessimists who are stating misinformation. Let’s do our part in supporting the dairy compact program by taking this step in allowing farmers, consumers and processors to work hand in had to ensure a stable supply of local, fresh fluid milk.
Lisa S. Tharp
(The author is legislative director for the Ohio State Grange.)