Monday, August 9, 2010
In an ongoing effort to change the way milk is priced, farmers are asking for the approval of the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act to bolster the price of milk. Under the current pricing system milk prices don't take into account the cost of production. Arden Tewksbury, a dairy farmer and manager of the Progressive Agriculture Organization in in Meshoppen, Pennsylvania says there's a laundry list of costs that go into producing milk. "A big one is the feed we buy, the corn--and if you don't buy it you have to grow it and harvest it; you've got electricity, veterinarians, all kinds of supplies; the value of the farm–somebody doesn't just give you a farm for free, hired labor, taxes, insurance." The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the price of milk based on a complex formula that Tewksbury says shortchanges farmers. He says in 2009 farmers were paid about $1.12 for a gallon of milk, which according to the USDA cost farmers about $2.00 to produce. That discrepancy translated into a net loss of $15 billion to dairy farmers across the country and a $75 billion loss for the agriculture industry as a whole. He says the Milk Marketing Improvement Act (bill 1645), sponsored by senators Bob Casey and Arlen Specter would give farmers a fighting chance, though the legislation has been languishing in the Senate and doesn't appear to be going anywhere fast.