The J-S article noted that the number of milk-cow herds has declined by 20 percent over the last five years in Wisconsin, and this has led to calls for help from Congress.
Last week, more than 50 groups from across the country — including the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Family Farm Defenders and the National Family Farm Coalition — asked Congress for emergency relief from the deepening troubles on small dairy farms.Mike Gousha also discussed the tough situation involving Wisconsin farmers on his show this Sunday. Gousha interviewed Dave Daniels, a dairy farmer from Union Grove who serves on the board of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. Daniels mentioned to Gousha that low prices and a lack of supports from the federal and state governments were making an increasing amount of farmers give up on the business.
Among other things, they want the government to set a minimum price that farmers would get for their milk — at a break-even point of $20 per hundred pounds, or about 11 gallons, compared with $13 paid in some months of the downturn.
They’re seeking a milk supply management system to stabilize volatile markets. And they’re asking the government to purchase surplus milk for use by emergency food providers, such as food pantries.
Some of the solutions may seem extreme, but so is the crisis that’s rapidly eroding America’s rural economy and threatening families, according to the farm groups.
“In the last few months, dairy marketing cooperatives have provided suicide hotline information to members along with milk checks,” the groups said in their letter to members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Daniels: WE’VE HAD THESE LONG TIME FRAMES OF LOWER PRICES IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS. WE KNOW IT'S A CYCLICAL TYPE OF INDUSTRY, AS MOST COMMODITIES. WE JUST DON'T HAVE THE SAFETY NET THAT'S OUT THERE, AND WE ARE WORKING WITH THE GOVERNMENT AND FARM BILL TO TRY TO PUT THAT IN PLACE.I agree that farmers deserve some kind of price supports to stay in business and keep them relatively competitive with large, corporate mega-farms. But John Peterson of the Democurmudgeon blog watched that interview, and noticed an interesting contrast between how some Wisconsinites discuss what to do with farmers having a tough time, and urban people (often of color) who also may be falling hard times.
Gousha: WHAT ARE THE PRICES SO LOW?
Daniels: IT IS ALL ABOUT SUPPLY AND DEMAND, AND WE HAVE AN OVERSUPPLY OF MILK. DEMAND IS ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD, AND WE ARE GETTING IT MOVED OUT OF THE COUNTRYSIDE. AND THEN WE ARE DOING A LOT OF EXPORTING, BUT WE JUST NEED TO GET THAT BALANCE BACK IN PLACE.
Gousha: AND WE WERE TALKING BEFORE THIS INTERVIEW BEGAN ABOUT THE NUMBER OF DAIRY FARMERS WHO HAVE SIMPLY SAID "YOU KNOW, IT MAY BE A CYCLE, BUT I THINK I AM DONE, I'M GOING TO GET OUT. HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE LEAVING?
Daniels: I’VE HEARD THE NUMBER, ABOUT 500, IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS WHO DO NOT HAVE A LICENSE NOW OR THEY DIDN'T TAKE OUT THEIR LICENSE TO BE A DAIRY FARMER. AND THAT COULD BE SOME CONSOLIDATION OR THAT COULD JUST BE A FARMER THAT'S READY TO RETIRE.
Upfront's Dairy Farm Bureau guest offered no solution and double standard; taxpayer handout when dairy prices are low, cut "handouts" to urban low wage or jobless Wisconsinites! Walker's divide and conquer works.— John (@democurmudgeon) April 29, 2018
That is an intriguing double-standard, isn't it?
Note that Daniels brought up overproduction as a reason behind farmers being in such dire financial straits. James Rowen was talking about this problem a year ago in his Political Environment blog, and noted that while dairy farmers were already feeling the hit of oversupply, the Walker Administration and other GOPs have cleared the way for mega-farms and others to pump out even more product, increasing the economic problems.
Clearly there is a lot wrong with this picture; the common thread -- - those with the least power are being ignored and abused by those with more power, or access to it.So sure, Scott Walker might have toured Northeastern Wisconsin dairy farms whose buildings were damaged by heavy snow last week, to make it seem like he and his Administration cares and is trying to help. But in that same week, Walker's DNR allowed a permit for a 5,800-cow operation Green County that will crowd out smaller, family operations and pollute the communities in the Sugar River watershed.
So consider that:
* Walker in 2012 began financing a state plan to boost milk production in the state:
Walker hopes to grow Badger State milk production to 30 billion pounds annually by 2020. The effort to do that has been dubbed "30x20" and is part of the Grow Wisconsin Dairy program.
Walker unveiled his proposal in Madison on March 13. He chose the twentieth annual business conference of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) for his announcement.
* GOP Attorney General [Brad Schimel], at the request of GOP legislators, issued an opinion [in 2016] that would make it easier for the DNR to award high-volume ground water permits sought by Big Ag and Big Dairy.
As always, watch what Republican politicians do (or DON'T do), and not what they say at a media event. And WisGOP's actions (and inactions) show that they don't care about family farms or in promoting responsible measures by Big Ag to allow for more of the balance that Dave Daniels is asking for. It makes you wonder if Big Ag organizations like the Wisconsin Corn Growers, the Dairy Business Association and the Farm Bureau Federation regret endorsing Walker in 2014.
NAAAAH! Those groups care about one thing - increased profit and policy influence for Big Ag. And as long as Republicans give them increasing amounts of those, they'll keep supporting the GOP. Even if it's at the expense of everyday family farmers who are increasingly being driven into bankruptcy....or worse.