Dairy farmers want help as milk prices decline

In response to the troubling economic situation facing U.S. dairy farmers, American Farmers and Ranchers invited the Oklahoma congressional delegation to sign on to a letter of support urging USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to take immediate action.

“Oklahoma dairy farmers are facing a mounting crisis and while they are doing their best to squeeze every penny possible out of their milk checks,” Terry Detrick, AFR president, said. “Nationally the price of milk has dropped far below their average costs of production. We hope you will join a bipartisan call for strong USDA support for our dairy farmers who are suffering.”

While the current problems in the dairy industry raise questions about the Farm Bill dairy program, this letter does not advocate opening the Farm Bill.  Rather it focuses on options already available to the secretary in the near term to provide relief.

The letter of support highlighted the current struggles of dairy farmers:

Farm milk prices have dropped forty percent since 2014 and in May, the nation’s cheese stocks were recorded at their highest level since the data was first recorded in 1917. Current expectations are that the dairy market will continue to struggle with depressed prices.

A number of factors have contributed to this crisis. U.S. milk production has increased almost two percent above last year’s level, while global milk production is up significantly, partly as a result of the European Union’s decision to remove milk production quotas and the loss of their export market to Russia. And there are increases in production in other major milk-producing countries that have led to these depressed prices globally. All of this comes as American dairy farmers are still adjusting to the new Farm Bill, and the many changes that were made to dairy support programs.

The AFR is urging the USDA to use its secretarial authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935 (7 U.S.C. 612c), and look to past precedent for how to take action to protect dairy farmers from further crisis and to aid in the expansion and maintenance of domestic markets. The AFR encourages the USDA to take action in order to make an immediate market injection and offer financial assistance.

“The family business of dairy farming has long been woven into our nation’s agricultural history,” according to an AFR release. “Across the country, in all 50 states, dairy farms large and small are economic drivers providing local jobs and local products.”