Monday, July 9, 2012

Cost of Milk Is Not Just A Local Issue

Milk Money, by Kirk Kardashian is being released this October.   Milk Money is about the failing economics of the traditional small dairy farm, the rise of the factory mega-farm with its resultant pollution and disease, and the uncertain future of milk.

In the tradition of Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, Kardashian asks whether it is right that family farmers in America should toil so hard, produce a food so wholesome and so popular, and still lose money. This gripping investigation uncovers the hidden forces behind dairy farm consolidation, and explains why milk—a staple commodity subject to both government oversight and industry collusion—has proven so tricky to stabilize. Meanwhile, every year we continue to lose scores of small dairy farms. With passion, wit, and humor, Milk Money shows where we are now, how we got here, and where we might be going.

Kirk focus is on the American milk industry, but USA dairy farmers are not the only ones feeling the economic pressures. In London, England,  diary farmers across the country are being ‘exploited appallingly by supermarkets and milk buyers of all kinds’ and were receiving an average price 6pence per litre below their cost of production. A recent 2pence cut in prices sparked an immediate meeting with farmers and government officials.

Are there solutions?
There is government support for dairy farmers but it is limited and only available during economic down turns. The funds are difficult to obtain and do not cover the full loss experienced by the farms.

Keep Local Farms is an education and contribution program that connects consumers with local dairy farmers and encourages the purchase of local foods.  It is a way to educate consumers about the value of local dairy farms, raise funds to support dairy farms throughout New England, and drive dairy sales. They have partner programs with colleges, universities, and businesses who show support by helping with fund raising and/or donating monies based on sales of milk. The Keep Local Farms program will provide assistance to dairy farms regardless of the price of milk. When milk prices rebound, funds are pooled in preparation for a milk price down turn. The funds collected will also be used for special projects such as grants for renewable energy or environmental protection on farms.

At the end of the day, dairy farmers need to support their families and hold onto to their homesteads.  Consumers of milk and other dairy products need to appreciate and realize the hard dedicated work that goes into these products and be willing to pay fare trade value for them. Simple as that.

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