With milk prices dropping for a fourth straight year dairy farmers are feeling the pinch, and many small family farms are struggling to survive. This week we bring together farmers, dairy industry experts, and our community to address what’s needed to keep family farms here in the North Country in business.
The price farmers get for their milk today is about the same that they were getting paid in the late 80s & 90s, yet the costs of producing that milk, what the farmer pays out for feed, fuel, farm equipment, utilities & labor, all keep going up. It simply costs many farmers more to make the milk than what they’re getting paid. After years of losing money, many family farms are at the breaking point.
Our panel includes Dairy Farmers Todd Giroux from Beekmantown, Ashley Brunell from Chazy, and Eric Ooms from Chatham, New York. Also joining us is Bob Wellington, Senior Vice-President of Economics for the Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative which buys milk from more than 1-thousand farmers across Northern New York, Vermont and New England. Agri-Mark owns the Cabot Cheese plant in Chateaugay, New York.
Giroux is the President of the Farm Bureau in Clinton County, and Ooms is a Vice-President on the board of the New York State Farm Bureau.
The panel discusses the low price farmers are getting paid for their milk, how much that price fluctuates from month to month, and the many factors that determine the price that farmers get for their milk.
We also discuss the complex federal milk marketing order that sets dairy prices across the nation.
Many farmers are hopeful lawmakers in Congress and in Albany came help them through these difficult financial times, and ultimately, design a better system of setting milk prices.
We hear from our North Country political leaders, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, State Senator Betty Little, and Assemblyman Billy Jones on what they believe can be done to assist dairy farmers.
Read Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s full statement here.
As dairy farmers struggle through their fourth year of depressed milk prices, there are growing concerns that many farmers may be a risk of becoming depressed themselves. The outlook for milk prices for the next year is so bleak it has heightened worries about farmer suicides.
When Agri-Mark paid its farmers in January, the check included a letter that listed crisis hotlines for organizations that can help farmers who are feeling financial stress, depression, or having thoughts of suicide.
Read the letter from Agri-Mark to farmers here.
Helplines for farmers to talk with experts about financial stress, depression, anxiety, mental health support:
In New York State: FarmNet 1-800-547-3276 www.nyfarmnet.org
In Vermont: Farm First 1-877-493-6216 www.farmfirst.org (password: farm)
Forgotten Farms is a documentary that looks at the plight of dairy farms and farm families struggling to survive. We will be broadcasting the documentary Forgotten Farms on Monday, April 2nd at 9pm, and then again on Saturday April 7th at 7pm on Mountain Lake PBS. You’ll find more about the film at www.forgottenfarms.org
Watch our Mountain Lake Journal in-depth discussion with the filmmakers, Sarah Gardner and Dave Simonds here: https://youtu.be/QfIiF2fVny0