Chronic Oversupply, Depressed Prices Plague Dairy Industry
In response to sustained depressed milk prices, chronic oversupply, farm-level consolidation, and a wave of farm closures, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture today held a hearing on the state of the dairy economy. National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson submitted written testimony highlighting the considerable financial difficulties American dairy producers have withstood for the past several years.
NFU Vice President Patty Edelburg, who co-owns and operates a dairy farm in Amherst Junction, Wisconsin, has witnessed the devastation first-hand. “For more than four years, dairy farmers nationwide have been paid well below the cost of production” she said. “It would take years of profitability for many family dairy farmers to rebuild their equity and get their farms back on stable footing. With mounting piles of debt and no significant price rebound in sight, thousands of family farmers have been left with no choice but to close their doors.”
While short-term support is critical to help farmers survive the immediate economic challenges, Edelburg recommended that legislators also pursue long-term solutions to overproduction, which has plagued the industry for some time. “The 2018 Farm Bill provides improvements that will help stem losses for many family farmers, but this support alone won’t be enough to save the dairy industry. We need to have a meaningful conversation about supply management options that will ensure dairy farmers are paid a fair price from the market.”