By Lynn S Kahn, PH.D. and Brenda Cochran
Dr. Kahn is the Green Party candidate for Congress in New York District 21 #NY21
Brenda Cochran is a Pennsylvania farmer and member of Farm Women United
For decades, especially since 1991, federal policy has set the price of farm milk below the cost of production, crushing America’s family farms. And we are all the worse for it.
Small dairy farms are the foundation of rural America, reaching far back to our historic, economic and cultural roots. Yet small dairy farms have none of the systemic supports for price fluctuations that government bestows on corn and soybeans.
The current cost to produce 100 pounds of milk (called hundredweight) is $21.59. In 2013, the federal government set possibly the second-highest price paid to farmers at $20.00 per hundredweight, the same year feed reached the second highest cost per hundred pounds on record ($11.47). After costs for feed and delivery, the farmer then loses to state, locality, co-op and processor total fees that range from $3.50 to $11.50 in arbitrary, discriminatory and mandated decisions. These fees are deducted or assessed even after milk leaves the farm. The family farmer can never catch up.
Big money dictates farm policy. Federal farm policy exists to drive family farms out of business. Family farms are on the front line of the struggle to keep local control of our food supply.
Except for 2014, this is the 8th year in a row that government has set the price of milk below the cost of production. Biases against small farms in industry pricing decisions then changing consumer tastes regarding milk and cheese triple-torpedoed family farms in 2018.
Anti-dairy interests sell the message that whole milk is not healthy despite research showing whole milk contains nutrients needed for growth especially among our children. The almond “milk” industry distorts the benefits and under-counts the water-draining demands of substituting nuts for milk.
Large agribusiness corporations, including foreign companies, lie in wait to buy out family farms going bankrupt. Crisis is not a strong enough word to describe the current situation of family farms.
Waves of consequences
When a small farm goes bankrupt, the entire farming community and all farm-related businesses feel the pain. Bankruptcies, sold herds, lost homes, depression, divorces and suicides now ravage our farm communities.
Between 1998 and 2007 New York State lost 27% of its dairy farms. Between 2007 and 2017, another 1,200 New York family farms disappeared. Many were generational farms – owned and operated by the same family for decades even hundreds of years.
The wider impact touches each of us. We all eat. When family farms die, we lose a little more control of our food supply. We lose the full flavor of home grown, farm-produced, poison-free, unadulterated crops and dairy products.
The variety, full flavor and deep nutrition of products from family farms is unmatched. As we lose family farms, fewer choices on supermarket shelves will face consumers when tastes swing back toward fresh, local, minimally processed, truthfully labelled, traditional, full-fat milk, cheese and dairy products.
The draft 2018 Farm Bills contain nothing to address this government-made catastrophe targeting dairy farmers. Instead, the proposed legislation further depresses the ability of small farms to operate at a profit and enables the displacement of real farm milk with adulterated, untested, imitation dairy products.
Farm bills are the weapon government has been using for decades to eliminate the dairy farming culture that has served our nation for so long. The anti-family farm, federal, globalist, corporate “dairy industry” agenda is advancing.
State governments and both major political parties have capitulated to global policies tolerating the destruction of their own local dairy farming communities, where ground zero in the war on dairy farmers plays out and has the most destructive effects. Local farmers have witnessed the take-over of our pork and beef industries by mega-industries with Chinese and Brazilian interests. Dairy is next.
Growing a vibrant family farm economy calls for emergency government relief; legislative hearings; expanded banking resources; community support health services including suicide prevention; stronger presence in restaurants, fairs and food markets; and communication strategies with specific educational and marketing actions.
The two-year strategic plan outlined below summarizes the demands of Congressional Candidate Lynn S Kahn (G) in #NY21. Dairy farmers must be paid a fair milk price this fall to prevent further clusters of bankruptcy. If not, the federal government and the consolidated, corporatized and global food industry will have eliminated local, family-owned, dairy farmers in America.
Everyone eats. The small farmer is on the frontline of the fight to retain local control over our nation’s food supply. The farmer’s fight is also about Constitutional and private property rights, with challenges to farmers’ self-determination and our consumer food choices. Globalization of food with no truth in advertising and no quality control is here to stay if we do not find our way beyond this dark crossroads.
What Can You DO?
Visit the food regions of upstate New York! Celebrate our local and upstate farms. Buy just picked lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, squash, potatoes and other vegetables from farmers markets. Visit farm stores outside the city and try fresh-made cream-topped yogurt. Taste cream on top pasteurized and not homogenized whole milk. Buy cow and goat cheese sold fresh to you by the cheesemaker. Buy sausage and steaks from the farmer raising the herds. Appreciate the extraordinary variety of cheeses and milk produced by farmers with a personal relationship to the soil, the weather, their crops and animals, our health and well-being. Actively shop to save our family farms.