Dairy farmers: Please stand up for your existence

Arden Tewksbury

Dairy Farmers: Shut off your tractors for one half hour and help us do something to help all dairy farmers. 

Arden Tewksbury

It has been announced by various news outlets concerning a revised formula for establishing the value of Class I milk (milk that is used for bottling, etc.).  

The current formula states that the higher value of Class III milk (cheese, etc.) or Class IV milk (butter, etc.) is being used to determine the base price for Class I milk (fluid, etc.)

The revised formula that is being suggested would use the average value of Class III and Class IV milk plus a 70 cent differential add-on.

Supposedly this add-on makes up for the loss of the value of the average of Class III and Class IV milk as compared to the previous formula which used the higher of Class III or Class IV.  (In the past, many times the Class IV price was cheaper than Class III). 

However, my thoughts are that the real reason for the change in the formula is to make it easier for milk processors to enter into contracts with schools and other institutions. To this reasoning, I say hogwash. It’s very easy to enter into contracts with sliding price fields. 

The primary reason for the change in the formula in my opinion is an attempt to convince dairy farmers that “help is on the way!” Again, hogwash!

Hang on; we will soon get to requesting you to shut off your tractor for one half hour.    

In the recent hearing held by the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board, it was our testimony, along with Mike Evanish (Manager of MSC business services for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau) that closely resembled each other’s. My testimony used the USDA’s national average cost of producing milk for 2016 at $21.87 per cwt. Mike’s figures for his hundreds of clients came in at $21.81 per cwt. for 2016.   

What more evidence will our political people in Washington need in order to establish a new pricing formula? Wait, I have more. I met a feed nutritional expert recently and he told me of a very modern high-tech operation of a dairy farmer in Northeastern Pennsylvania who claims he needs $23.00 per cwt. just to cash flow.

Here is where we shut the tractor off for at least a half hour. 

Various members of the United States Senate and House Ag Committees are drawing changes in the existing Farm Bill which will include the new Class I formula.  (Hogwash.)  Here is what we want you to do: Get off your tractors and grab your phone and call the four important numbers. 

  • House Ag Chair Mike Conaway (TX):  202-225-3605
  • Minority Chair Petersen (MN) 202-225-2165
  • Senate Ag Chair Roberts (KS) 202-224-4774
  • Minority Chair Debbie Stabenow (MI) 202-224-4822  

Please call these numbers and tell them that you want real dairy farmers to have a seat at the table to inform them of the real truth of the financial conditions that exist on our dairy farms. Don’t get discouraged when your call doesn’t go through the first time — try and try again.

Ask them for the Agriculture Aide, and you may also ask for the Committee’s Agriculture Aide. These people must hear from bonafide, real dairy farmers. Please don’t give up!

Please tell them that dairy farmers must have a new pricing formula that allows dairy farmers to cover their costs. Also contact your local Congressman or Senator.

Arden Tewksbury is the president of Pro-Ag and can be reached at 570-833-5776.