Prices paid to dairy farmers have finely risen

Arden Tewksbury

It took seven years for this to happen. But finally, prices paid to local dairy farmers have reached $20 per hundred weight (CWT). The Market Administrator for Federal Order #1 has announced the value for milk produced in December 2021 at $20.41 CWT.

Records indicate the the value of milk in December 2014 was $21.02 CWT.

Prices since Dec. 2014 have jumped around like Mexican jumping beans. One might say this new price is a victory for dairy farmers. However, when you consider that the national average for the cost of production is $22.67 CWT (USDA), then you realize that dairy famers are still being paid far below the price they need to stay in business.

Everyone must realize that the figure of $22.67, if they got it, would only cover the cost of production. Beyond the cost of production, money is taken out of dairy farmers milk checks for marketing costs and hauling costs along with other trivial costs. It is obvious that many dairy farmers are having between $2.50 and $3.00 CWT taken out of their milk checks for these additional charges. They are getting way below the new $20.41 new rate….they are getting more like $17.00.

What about a little profit for the dairy farmers?

It is unthinkable that prices paid to dairy farmers are lower than they were in 2014. They are $1.39 lower! It should be no surprise that thousands of dairy farmers have been forced out of business since 2014. Those dairy farmers that went out of business since then have only memories of the good old days.

I remember when olio-margarine came on to the market. Many people said we would not be hurt by the loss of butter sales. But we know what happened. The dairy industry was soft on the threat of olio-margarine  and so now we are witnessing an overwhelming amount of artificial dairy products in the dairy case. Oat milk, almond yogurt, and plant-based butter are just a few. How is it possible to use the word milk to describe these plant-based products? Webster’s dictionary clearly says the milk comes from mammals….not from plants.

The same thing is happening with beef. Plant-based products are being sold as hamburger and sausage. Dairy farmers sell beef too. We strongly urge everyone not to purchase plant hamburgers in place of the real thing – real beef!  Are we going to just sit back and allow these plant-based foods to take away from our dairy and meat sales? If we don’t take a strong stance against imitation products, we will witness the same problems that olio-margarine created for our dairy farmers.

To add insult to injury, the dairy industry itself has started mixing real milk with plant-based product.

In August 2019, according to a release by Dairy Farmers of America, the co-op announced Live Real Farms, a new brand combining dairy milk with plant-based alternatives in what it calls the “first-ever blended beverage of its kind” offering  “the protein-packed goodness of pure dairy milk with the flavors and versatility of alternatives in one great-tasting beverage.” The current DFA website says that “Live Real Farms Dairy+ milk blends have been discontinued” and they are “ working hard on a new and exciting product line. Really, the flavor of vegetables is better than flavor of real milk?

What's next?

In conclusion, recently I visited a fast-food restaurant to get a milk shake. I looked at their menu board and the sign said plant hamburgers. I asked, “Are you really selling plant burgers?” The reply was yes. I firmly told them that as long as you sell plant burgers, I will never patronize any of your stores. Did I gain anything by walking out and not buying a hamburger? I don’t know if I did or not, but I sure felt a lot better.

Arden Tewksbury

Tewksburgy is manager of ProAg