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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. – The current state of the U.S. dairy economy is putting family farms out of business. Over the last 10 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recorded the loss of roughly 17,000 dairy herds, cutting the total number of U.S herds by nearly one third.

A handful of family farm groups focused on improving the dairy economy are organizing a national Dairy Together Roadshow this spring to present options rooted in research and to engage farmers and policy makers in conversations to move the dairy industry forward.

Last winter, Wisconsin Farmers Union enlisted dairy economists Mark Stephenson from the University of Wisconsin and Chuck Nicholson from Cornell to conduct an Analysis of Selected Dairy Programs to Reduce Volatility in Milk Prices and Farm Income. The Roadshow will unveil the researchers’ data on several potential supply management programs’ impacts on net farm operating income, farm numbers, domestic demand and cost to the government versus the current Margin Protection Program.

“The bottom line on what we found was generally pretty positive in terms of thinking of what these programs could do,” Nicholson said.  “We saw reduced variation in prices and also some price enhancement, increased net farm operating incomes, reduction in the rate of farm exits across farms of all sizes, and a reduction in government expenditures on dairy programs.”

Stephenson added that projections under the current MPP show substantial payments of more than a billion dollars being doled out in the next couple years.

“It’s worth noting, the programs we looked at don’t cost the government anything,” Stephenson said. “In fact, they reduce the government programs that are already part of law.”

Farmers of all backgrounds are encouraged to attend the Roadshow events, which are being organized by the National Farmers Union, National Farmers Organization, Holstein Association USA, and state Farmers Union organizations from Wisconsin, New England, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, California, and the Rocky Mountain region.

Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden stressed that with many more family farms on the brink of closure, now is the time to enact bold solutions to halt the loss of dairy farms.

"We are focused on policy changes that align with our organizations' core values of family farming, fair economic policies, and thriving rural communities," Von Ruden said. "We're looking beyond milk labeling, increasing exports, and dairy insurance plans to actual long-term solutions."

Sign up for updates, register for events, view a video analysis of the dairy research, and learn more at www.dairytogether.com.

Wisconsin stops

March 27—10 a.m. to noon, Wisconsin Public Service Farm Show, hospitality room inside Hangar A, EAA Grounds, 1001 Waukau Ave. Free for WPS Farm Show attendees but you must pay $3 per vehicle to park. 

April 2—11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 29 Pines, 5872 33rd Avenue, Eau Claire. Includes lunch.

April 4—12 to 2:30 p.m., UW Platteville Pioneer Farm, 29200 College Farm Rd., Platteville. Includes lunch.

Those wishing to attend should RSVP at www.dairytogether.com, or by calling WFU at  715-723-5561.

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