May 6, 2019
The 2018 “US milk production costs and returns per hundredweight sold” published by USDA ERS is now out. The 2018 US average “total cost listed” (also referred to as “total economic cost of production”) for milk was reported at $21.66 per hundredweight (cwt.). “Total operating costs” were listed at $13.11 per cwt. New York “total cost listed” for 2018 was $27.58 per cwt. and “total operating costs” was $15.12 per cwt. Pennsylvania “total cost listed” for 2018 was $26.43 per cwt. with “total operating costs” $14.75 per cwt.
At some point in late 2018, or early 2019, these cost figures changed very dramatically downward, with 2016 “total costs listed” figures being lowered by $5.73, 2015: -$3.59, 2014: -$3.63, 2013: -$0.42, 2012: +$2.76, and 2011: +$2.18.
There seems to be a whitewashing agenda going on at USDA ERS as the “value of production less operating costs” averaged $6.61 from 2016 to 2018. Since 2004, only three other years (2004, 2007, 2014) saw this figure above $6.00, with 2009 listed at $0.64 and 2012 at $0.85.
What is going on? Some light can be shed on this by the notes at the bottom of these documents. One note states, “Survey base years are those in which a survey of producers was conducted. These years provide a base line from which estimates in subsequent years are set.” In this case, the base survey year was 2016, but how can they go back and change previous years’ figures? Another note says, “Starting in 2013, annual data about the number of dairy farms by herd size are no longer being published. Therefore, adjustments in the costs and returns, and the supporting information no longer reflect the change in the distribution of dairy farms by herd size.” It appears that there is no longer a weighted average since feed costs and “opportunity cost of unpaid labor” account for the biggest reductions in cost of production, indicating that the data are more heavily weighted toward large dairies, but shows that even they are losing money.
Following are 2018 figures. “Marketing” costs of $0.18 per cwt. is a mystery since I am hearing $2.00-$3.00 per hundredweight milk check deductions for most dairy co-op members. In addition, “taxes and insurance” costs of $0.18 per cwt. seem very low.
I found the cost of production by herd size group interesting. Herds with fewer than 50 cows had a total cost listed at $39.30 per cwt. However, “value of production less operating costs” was at $4.59 per cwt. compared with $5.51 per cwt. for herds of 2,000 cows or more. The huge difference between under 50 and over 2,000 cows was in “allocated overhead” listed as $21.89 per cwt. for herds under 50 cows, and $6.10 per cwt. for herds over 2,000 cows. The primary difference was in “opportunity cost of unpaid labor,” which came in at $14.73 per cwt. for herds under 50 cows, compared with $0.11 per cwt. for herds of 2,000 cows or more.
My basic conclusion is that the USDA ERS has a new agenda reflected in the cost of production figures, to basically neuter cost of production efforts by dairy farmers and enable public policy dialogue indicating that “all is well” on dairy farms and, of course, “bigger is better.”
Gerald Carlin, Meshoppen, PA
January 29, 2018
A travesty is happening in this country to the Family Farmer. Family Farmers are being paid prices for the food they produce that are the same as thirty to forty years ago, with cost of inputs increasing weekly, and all of this without a cost of living raise.
If you like getting food from other countries, where their inspection standards are subpar, then stop reading this letter right now. There is so much being imported that we could produce here, if it wasn't for the multinational corporations that want to get rid of the family farm.
We are tired of some of those in "officialdom" telling us to get “more efficient.” Farm Women United (FWU) was formed to fight for the family farms that normally do not have a voice at the table. You may say that there are other organizations out there that are fighting, and you are right, there are a few, but there are more that want to get rid of the small to mid-size family farms than keep them.
FWU is unique because it is made up of women who present the farm woman’s point of view about the farm and food crisis that threatens our nation’s rural communities and, therefore, our food supply. We stand beside our family, our spouse, or significant other, doing the farm work, only to see how the low prices are making them depressed, some to the point that they take their own lives. This needs to stop! Spread the word about Farm Women United. We can use all the members that we can get to help us fight this fight. It is not going to be easy. The more voices we have making the chatter, the more seriously they will take us.
If you would like to help, check out our website, www.farmwomenunited.org. We are currently running a “Green Ribbon Campaign” to support the family farms. If you would like a ribbon, let us know and we will send you one. Stand with us in getting fairer prices for our family farms. Our co-ops aren't doing it. Our milk processors aren't doing it. Our food handlers aren't doing it. We are no longer going to stand by waiting for something to be done or for a federal Farm Bill to be drafted without any input from us. Most Americans do not realize how much food we import or from what countries we are importing. Support your local farmers by visiting and buying from local farms or farm markets. They are in most of the larger cities around the country and in smaller towns, too.
The time is now for us to take control of our food again. Visit our website and check it out. Feel free to contact FWU through our website under Contact Us. If you are not a farm woman but would like to support FWU, you can wear a green ribbon to support family farms. We lose our family farms, we lose our nation's domestic food supply.
Tina Carlin, Meshoppen, PA
Communications Director FWU
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February 12, 2018
How ironic! February 9, 2018, is “National Pizza Day.” Consumers are being given discounts, coupons, specials, etc., for buying pizzas, while Agri-Mark dairy farmers recently received letters concerning suicide prevention, from their own co-op!
Most “pizza cheese” is manufactured using “Milk Protein Concentrate” (MPC), plus additives such as sodium gluconate, pea starch, cellulose, etc. Altering the process retains more moisture, resulting in a huge yield increase. About 18 pounds of so-called “cheese” is obtained instead of about 10 pounds of real cheese made from 100 pounds of real, natural farm milk!
The greedy quest for higher “cheese” yields with MPC use has made the US the biggest cheese producer in the world. But, at what cost?
Because of MPC use, the extra 8 pounds of “Moo Glue” cheese is creating a "mountain of surplus cheese" plus a huge displacement of real fluid milk at the farm that is causing such a devastating drop in dairy farmers' milk prices that many dairy farmers are losing their farms, homes, way of life, and tragically, some have taken their own lives.
Losing thousands of family dairy farms is a devastating socio-economic blow to local rural communities, threatening a safe, secure, and available national food supply.
As a dairy farmer (and a consumer also), I know how important it is for a cow to have a balanced diet! If our cows did not have the right balance of proteins, energy, fiber, minerals, vitamins, etc., we would have a low-producing cow, a sick cow, or a dead cow!
What effect is the relentless push for industrialized milk-derivative “dairy proteins,” in place of REAL milk, having on consumers' health?
With fewer than 38,000, licensed dairy farms left in the US, and thousands more disappearing, I will not celebrate any National Pizza Days! Hope you won't either!
Donna Hall, Muncy, PA
Farm Women United
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February 25, 2018
Do you know how your food is produced or how far your food travels to make it to your dinner plate? It is shocking to know that, on average, your food travels more than 1500 miles. So you may ask, “What is the problem with food that has traveled across the country?” Here are a few reasons why you should visit your local Farmers Market and buy local.
· Food, such as salad greens and more, are produced in California, so they travel over 3,000 miles to make it to the East Coast.
· Produce, such as tomatoes, are picked when they are unripe and gassed to ripen while they are being transported.
· Locally grown food actually tastes much better because it is fresher. Food that is grown locally does not have preservatives sprayed on it to ripen or to try to keep it fresh while in transport.
· Beef is gassed to keep it looking red and appearing fresh. Irradiation is used to preserve the meat, so that it will not spoil as fast.
· Get to know your farmer at the Farmers Market. Ask questions about the growing habits on their farm. Do they raise “conventional,” or are they organic? Do they use heirloom, hybrid, or genetically modified seeds? Do they use conventional or organic sprays?
There are great Farmers Markets springing up all over. Stop by and check them out. Try their products and see if you can tell the difference in the way they taste. Every dollar you spend at a Farmers Market helps that farmer to stay in business. By supporting the local farmers, you are supporting the local communities, because, in the long run, the farmers are consumers also and will put the money that they have earned back into the local economy. Help Farm Women United Fight the Food Fight! www.farmwomenunited.org
Remember to buy local, because “No Farmers, No Food!”
Farm Women United
Dear Editor, May 1, 2018
Farm Women United (FWU), an advocacy group for family farmers, has been fielding emails and telephone calls from farmers who are struggling to make ends meet and feel like they cannot go on. Finding resources to help these farmers has been a challenge. In New York, Farm Net can help farmers seek refinancing options and get extensions from creditors. Their contact information is easily found on their website.
That is not necessarily so with Pennsylvania. In a conversation about dairy farmers' current mental health crisis from the long-term low milk prices, Jayne Sebright, Executive Director of the Center for Dairy Excellence, told FWU’s board of directors that the Center has information on their website for Crisis Intervention. A recent search on their website indicated that the information was not easily found. After entering “crisis intervention” in the search box, a county by county list appeared in Adobe format with websites that you can click on to pull up information. After clicking on some of the links, FWU found that some of them were not working. How can farmers get help at a time of extreme crisis when they need it and cannot get it?
FWU has made an extensive list of Crisis Intervention Hotlines on the Farm Women United website www.farmwomenunited.org under the heading “Crisis Intervention Hotlines.” There you will find several states listed along with the National Suicide Hotline.
The help that farmers really need is to get an Emergency $20/ cwt. FLOOR PRICE for milk used for manufacturing. That would help to ease the minds of many hardworking men and women across our country who are at heightened risk of suicide because of these criminal, man-made low milk prices that need to be corrected by the federal government IMMEDIATELY.
Call your Senators and Representative and demand that they immediately support legislation that would give family farms a chance to survive with a fair milk price that allows farmers to cover what it costs to produce the milk on the farm before one more farmer commits suicide over these low milk prices. That contact information can be found on our website also.
Tina Carlin, Laceyville, PA
Executive Director, Farm Women United