If you don’t know by now, consider this your notice, milk prices on-farm have been dropping for months and currently are at the lowest point they have been in almost 7 years. The last time financial impacts like this hit the dairy community there was a mass exodus of producers, many of which wish they didn’t have to sell their cows but they couldn’t provide for their families anymore. This is our current reality. Today I read articles about record cheese inventories in the United States putting pressure on milk price to drop even lower. I heard from fellow dairy farmers that the exodus has started again, dairy farmers are being forced to sell their herds and even land in order to pay off debt and save themselves. This dip in prices will have long lasting effects on the dairy community, no matter the size of the farm. It does not discriminate. So as a reader, why should you care? What is my purpose in sharing this with you?
These dairy farmers work tirelessly for their families, their cows, their farms, and yes you the consumers. They are experiencing emotional stress that you can’t even describe. These dedicated farmers wake up every morning fully aware that they are literally paying admission to milk their cows. They are not receiving income from their farms, but paying just to keep them. Many farms are accumulating thousands and even millions of dollars of debt just to feed and care for their cows. But it isn’t the financial situation that concerns me the most. What concerns me the most is the emotional and mental health of these amazing people.
These men and women will most likely sacrifice everything they have to give to keep doing the one thing they know and love, milking cows. I talked to a dear friend in Ohio who has a small herd. He told me he will farm until he’s completely broke and go to a food bank for himself and his wife before he sacrifices his cows. That’s right, he would sacrifice for his family before he would sacrifice for his cows. He’s not alone, I know many just like him. I know of farmers trying to make cuts to the budget, but they refuse to compromise their soil, water, and cows’ well-being. These passionate men and women believe in a hope that is impossible to describe, because many believe if they keep pushing forward through the hard times that good times will soon follow. Their perseverance pushes them to keeps them fighting for their calling. Crops were planting this spring and hay is being harvested, farmers’ optimism continues, but at what price? I can see the stress on their tired faces. The worry is in their eyes: how will they feed and clothe their families, how will they pay even part of their monthly bills, how long will this last and can they make it that long?
What can you do to help farmers? Keep drinking milk, eating cheese and enjoying yogurt. Dairy foods are some of the most local foods we have available, with the average gallon of milk traveling no more than 100 miles to the grocery store from the nearest dairy farm. By drinking milk, you are helping your neighboring dairy farmers. Please help these amazing farmers provide for their families and yours, by doing something as simple as making sure you and your family enjoys 3 servings of dairy each day. And while you’re at it, please pray for these hard working heroes, they need all the love and support they can get! Thank you!