Paraphrasing author William Shakespeare, dairy farmers during June Dairy Month are faced with a really big decision: Will we back CWT, a supply management plan that will reduce milk production and boost farm prices, or will we just sit back and complain about our economic situation?
It is up to today’s dairy farmers to decide where the future will take our industry.
We dairy farmers have an opportunity to help ourselves without the government stepping in. For the past 20-plus years, this is exactly what I have heard dairy farmers say they have wanted. Every meeting that I attend, I hear dairy farmers say to get government out of farming. I hear dairy producers say they feel the MILC program is just a form of welfare.
Well folks, we have an opportunity right now to work together and help ourselves – no government involvement, just farmers working together to solve the problems of the dairy industry.
We must first decide if we can agree that the dairy industry has a problem. I believe we do! We should be able to make a decent living providing raw milk to the dairy processing industry. That is not possible today with continuing increases in expenses (like hospitalization insurance, fuel prices, and other farm input costs) and the continuing trend of low milk pay prices.
Assuming that we agree there is a problem, the next step is to decide what to do about it.
I continue to hear that co-ops should solve all of the problems, but that is unrealistic.
The current supply/demand imbalance and low milk price situation are problems for the entire dairy industry. The milk surplus was not caused by co-ops who market milk, but from farmers who produce milk. The flattening of consumption trends has everything to do with consumers, not farmers and their co-ops.
So, every dairy farmer had better ask, “What have you done lately to help increase or positively influence milk prices?”
We all have the chance to do something right now by supporting CWT. Let’s not let it pass by.
CWT is a positive step. Is it perfect? No. But it is farmer-created and farmer-led.
CWT’s concept of reducing milk production and herd size may not necessarily fit into the business philosophy of all dairy farmers.
For instance, on my farm our herd and production levels are at the size that can support our family. In fact, due to the weather and other forces of nature, we have already reduced our production level and our herd size has not really changed in 10 years.
The success of CWT, however, is important to my family dairy operation because it affects the future of our farm. By helping to support the program and by paying our share of the costs, our 17.9 cents per hundredweight will help to stabilize the market and help enhance prices.
Dairy farmers need to work together through CWT to increase our milk checks. This is truly one of those programs where you are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
I urge my fellow dairy producers to be problem solvers for this industry’s future. Support CWT. Be a part of the solution.
New Philadelphia, Ohio
(Connie Finton is a board member for Dairy Farmers of America.)