We must retain existing Class I premium in Pennsylvania
Testifying at a milk hearing conducted by the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board on Dec. 6, Arden Tewksbury, Manager of the Progressive Agriculture Organization, (Pro-Ag), testified that the existing Pennsylvania Class I premium must remain at $1.60 per cwt. (hundredweight).
Economic conditions that exist on our average dairy farm is making it nearly impossible to stay on the farm. According to the Economic Research Service, a division of the USDA, the average dairy farmer is still producing milk at nearly $4.50 per cwt. below their actual cost of production.
Mr. Tewksbury also said it appears whenever there are problems within the dairy industry, that dairy farmers are the first ones to suffer. Furthermore, the dairy farmers have no method available to them to correct their pricing inequities.
Tewksbury outlined four things we must do to correct these inequities facing our dairy farmers.
1) We all must work together getting whole milk back in our schools. Under the present school lunch program, milk is being thrown into the waste can, and we are eliminating future milk drinkers that we need.
2) Everyone must do a better job of advertising and promoting milk and dairy products. (For instance, Pro-Ag will be passing out 250 cartons of whole chocolate milk at a ball game this week at Elk Lake School, Susquehanna County.)
3) I've always supported dairy co-ops, and I think my resume proves that.
4) However, I will look eyeball to eyeball with some of these dairy cooperatives and urge them to separate the Pennsylvania premium from other premiums or costs, and pay the Pennsylvania premium directly to their members, and not co-mingle with other premiums or costs they have.
Tewksbury further stated, there is a lot of unrest in dairy farmers in parts of Pennsylvania, and most of the unrest is because of cooperatives not paying the premium directly to their members. And finally, while we strongly support maintaining the $1.60 per cwt. premium, if, in the eyes of the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board, the premium should be dropped somewhat, I strongly urge the Board not to go under $1 per cwt. because Readington Farms in New Jersey is paying $1 per cwt. voluntary directly to their producers (on all milk!).
Mr. Chairman, Pro-Ag continues and will continue to support the need of the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board, and we will help resist any efforts to dismantle the Board.