Dairy farmers looking for any lifeline in sinking milk market
There's something out of whack with the market for dairy products -- the price of production continues to go up, while the price dairy farmers get for their milk remains at historic lows, but for the rest of us -- us consumers -- we're paying just as much as ever for milk and cheese.
Somebody's making a lot of money off the hard work of Genesee County's dairies, but it's not the farmers nor their workers.
In fact, some of them are facing the devastating loss of their businesses.
"The price of milk since January has been very low, to the point that we’re going to lose about $300,000," said Le Roy dairy farmer Dale Stein during a dairy rally at his farm called by Assemblyman Steve Hawley. "We anticipated through September that it would be low, but the price has still not come back up in September and now they’re looking at March, so we’re borrowing another large set of money to get through until March. The problem is now, there are many farmers who can’t get any more credit due to the large size of their loss. We’re able to borrow money, but we’re here today because of so many farmers who can’t."
Hawley and Assemblyman Cliff Crouch (R,I-Guilford) are calling on Gov. David Paterson to release more than $150 million in state funds (half this year and half next) to assist the state's family-owned dairy farmers. They're also calling on Washington lawmakers to change the price-setting mechanism and supports for dairy products.
Crouch believes the money should come either from unspent funds from around the state or from federal stimulus money, but state officials are saying the federal government won't allow ARRA money to be used to help dairy farmers.
"I think where there's a will there's a way," Crouch said. "We've seen different incidents where stimulus money has gone out and we've really raised our eyebrows and can't understand why it got spent in that direction. And here's an industry that's here and it's going to be closing down if we don't do something to help it. For every dollar that's spent on a New York dairy farm, between $3 and $7 goes back into the local economy. If that isn't economic stimulus, than I don't know what is."
Recently, ARRA money went to a Catholic charity in Buffalo, and Gov. Paterson also authorized a $200 payment per child for needy families to help with school supplies, using ARRA funds.
Crouch said that it's time for Gov. Paterson to step up and offer assistance to the state's dairy farmers -- even if it's not the $75 million they seek this year, Paterson should at least be in Washington lobbying for his state's dairy farmers.
Photos: Top, Dale Stein speaks during the rally. Bottom, Lori Hawkins, an unemployed milker, showed up at the rally to let it be known she is looking for dairy work.