Wisconsin dairy farmers consider how to turn market around

Wisconsin State Farmer
Third generation dairy farmer Darin Von Ruden on his farm in Westby, Wisconsin.

MADISON (AP) - Dairy experts say Wisconsin farmers need to tip the scales of supply and demand back into their favor in order to get better prices but producers are unsure of what methods to take.

Producers don't agree which side of the equation they should focus on, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

"There's just a lot of dairy product on the marketplace and I don't see farmers cutting back very quickly, unless prices really go south and I don't expect that to happen," said Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The industry should find new markets to address the growth in production, said Gordon Speirs, a dairy farmer from Brillion. Holding back on production is a lost opportunity, Speirs said.

"We're a victim of our own success. We're making more milk with less inputs and we need to have a market for that and export is an excellent opportunity to move those products," Speirs said.

Producers should focus on creating a stable market in the U.S., said Darin Von Ruden, a dairy farmer from Westby.

"Why should we be producing to feed the world when over half the world doesn't need to be fed anymore because they're feeding themselves," he said.

Prices would stabilize if the industry had more control over the amount of milk produced, Von Ruden said.

Some Wisconsin farming cooperatives give members premium prices for their average production level. Milk beyond that is sold at a lower price. The U.S. dairy industry could guarantee stable prices for domestic milk and sell excess milk internationally for whatever price is available, Von Ruden said.

"So that when those (export) markets are available, we've got the product for them. But when they're not available, we need to make sure we're not producing so much that we're driving farmers out of business," Von Ruden said.