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Higher Milk Prices Not Helping Farmers

July 26, 2007

(my thoughts at the bottom.)


Sean Carroll (Rochester, N.Y.) — In the Rochester area, a gallon of milk costs about $2.63, up about 60 cents from last year. The national average is nearly $3.50 per gallon. While many consumers think that rising milk prices is good for dairy farmers, many still struggle.

Charles Bancroft of Ossian, Livingston County, has been in the dairy business for his whole life. Bancroft said he is barely breaking even each month with rising costs of fuel, feed for his cows, insurance, and taxes.

Bancroft gets about $19 for 100 pounds of milk (about $1.58 a gallon). He’d like to sell it for more, but that’s not his call to make.

“We never have a say in what we’re going to get paid for our milk. They tell us what they’re going to give us. It’s cut and dried. We have to pay the biggest share of hauling on the milk, we pay for the advertising on milk,” he said.

But with milk prices soaring, somebody’s getting more.

“Big businesses made up their mind that they have to answer to their stockholders.” He said.

In addition to working 12-to-16 hour days on their farm, Bancroft and his wife also have second jobs. He is selling off his herd and has already sold his farm

“I just don’t feel it’s advantageous to do it anymore. It’s kind of tough to pay your bills when every time you’re getting less than you should be making for your milk,” he said. “After awhile you get to the point in your life when you say, ‘Well, do I still want to keep doing this?’”

Despite the sale, it’s likely they’ll leave the farming business in debt.

The Bancrofts are not alone. Even much larger dairy farms can find themselves struggling if they’re not getting a high price for milk.

State and federal lawmakers are trying to help these farmers. But unless the costs go down, or companies pay more for the milk, it’s a tough way to make a living.

My thoughts on this? In a way, I kind of feel bad for the farmers. That doesn’t mean I support what they’re doing. That means, I feel bad that they were once convinced by their fathers or or grandfathers or great-grandfathers that this was a necessary means to make money. Unfortunately, so many times they can’t find a way out and have to close up shop, selling their herd for beef, etc.

In the end, of course they should all be shut down, but for the small family farmer I think a piece of their heritage and history dies along with it.

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