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Most read articles
|1409 PD: PD NEWS|
|Archives - Past Articles|
|Monday, 21 September 2009 06:05|
Dairy farmers struggle with low milk prices
North Dakota dairy farmers packed a meeting room last month at a state Farmers Union conference on the woes in the dairy industry.
The problems are nationwide, but in North Dakota they come as officials struggle to keep the industry alive.
The number of dairy farms in the state has plummeted from about 1,600 in 1990 to about 200, said Gary Hoffman, director of the State Dairy Coalition, a group formed six years ago to try to revive the industry in the state. The number of dairy cows has fallen in that time from 100,000 to fewer than 30,000.
With the collapse of milk prices in the past year, the problem is getting worse. North Dakota State University farm economist Dwight Aakre estimates farmers in the state will lose about $1,000 per cow this year if the situation does not improve.
Farmers lobbied for the federal government to set a minimum milk price of $18 per hundredweight – about double what they are receiving now. They also want Congress to find ways to boost exports, decrease imports of milk protein concentrates they say food companies are using in place of milk, and better monitor what they say is suspect speculation in commodity markets. The farmers also said they need to do their own part by better promoting their product and reducing supply to meet demand.
Once appointed, the committee will review the issues of farm milk price volatility, and dairy farmer profitability. The committee will also offer suggestions and ideas on how USDA can best address these issues to meet the dairy industry’s needs.
USDA is establishing the committee under the authority of the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972. The Secretary of Agriculture will appoint up to 15 representatives of the dairy industry to serve in an advisory capacity on the Committee.
Representatives will include: producers and producer organizations, processors and processor organizations, handlers, consumers, academia, retailers and state agencies involved in organic and non-organic dairy at the local, regional, national and international levels.
Written nominations must be received on or before September 28, and should be sent to Judith Lindsay, secretary to Brandon Willis, deputy administrator, Farm Service Agency, Farm Programs, USDA Room 3612-S, Stop 0501, Washington, D.C. 20250-0501; faxed to (202) 720-4726; or e-mailed to:
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The new National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management will demonstrate producers’ commitment to the highest level of animal care and quality assurance. The program, which will become available in the fall of 2009, is voluntary and available to all producers.
NMPF is managing the production and dissemination of technical animal care manuals, producer education and training, on-farm evaluation, and third-party verification. DMI is assisting with producer and industry outreach, and market chain and consumer relations.
At the heart of the program is NMPF’s revised “Caring for Dairy Animals” manual, which details best management practices for a variety of animal care issues, including animal health, facilities and housing, animal nutrition, equipment and milking procedures, and transportation and handling.
The content of the manual is consistent with the principles and guidelines of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative, which was introduced in 2008. NMPF is working with dairy animal care experts to assure that the document reflects current practices, animal health concerns, innovations and advances in technology.
Training and informational DVDs will be made available to producers, co-ops and others interested in dairy animal care. A National Dairy FARM Program website will include producer education and training.
Once producers have completed the educational component, the next step is an on-farm evaluation by a trained veterinarian, extension agent or co-op field staff member, said Jerry Kozak, president and chief executive officer of NMPF.
The producer then receives a status report and, if necessary, an action plan for improvement. On-farm evaluations will begin in 2010 and third-party verification will start in 2011. Co-ops and processors may choose to participate in the program to bring consistency to dairy animal care nationwide.
NMPF has assembled an advisory panel to provide guidance on Dairy FARM. The panel is comprised of dairy experts and industry professionals representing many facets of the industry.
Members include Stan Andre, California Milk Advisory Board; Marguerite Copel, Dean Foods; John Frey, Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence; Virginia Littlefield, Safeway Inc.; John Kennedy, Kraft Foods; Shelly Mayer, Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin; Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, American Association of Bovine Practitioners; Allen Sayler, International Dairy Foods Association; and Lynne Schmoe, Washington Dairy Products Commission.
For more information on the National Dairy FARM Program, log on to www.nationaldairyfarm.com or contact Betsy Flores at (703) 243-6111.
Olson is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities where she’s majoring in animal science. She represented McLeod County. Her sister, Sarah Olson, was Princess Kay in 2002.
In 2007, 59 percent of U.S. dairy farms owned or leased a computer. By 2009, the number had dropped by two percentage points. And while 55 percent of dairy farms had Internet access in 2007, only 52 percent had it in June 2009.
Although Internet access and computer usage dropped in the dairy sector, computer usage for farm business went up one percentage point from 44 percent. All of this increase came from dairies with annual incomes over $250,000.
Overall percentages for Internet access by U.S. farms has increased from 51 percent to 59 percent between June 2007 and June 2009, with the most growth in the grain and oilseed farm sector.
Computer ownership on U.S. farms increased from 60 percent to 61 percent, with a 1 percent increase in using computers for farm business.
Agricultural service employees on farms and ranches made up the remaining 363,000 workers. Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $10.64 per hour during the July 2009 reference week, up 30 cents from a year earlier.
Field workers received an average of $10.04 per hour, up 38 cents from last July, while livestock workers earned $10.03 per hour compared with $9.98 a year earlier.
The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $10.04 per hour, was up 30 cents from 2008. The number of hours worked averaged 39.8 hours for hired workers during the survey week, down 2 percent from a year ago.
“A group of our members met with the Governor [last month] and presented our request for a one-time emergency payment from Federal stimulus money of $2.00 per hundredweight on January through June milk production from Missouri’s 2,000+ dairy producers,” says Larry Purdom, MDA president from Purdy, Missouri.
“The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) of the University of Missouri estimates this one-time emergency payment to be $16.48 million. Missouri currently has 110,000 cows with an economic impact of $13,737 per cow or $1.5 billion.
“Other states are already stepping up to help their dairy farmers. Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine and Vermont have made financial commitments and a request has been made for $60 million in New York State,” says Dave Drennan, MDA executive director.
“Missouri is a milk-deficit state now and imports about 1.7 billion pounds of milk to satisfy all of the needs of our consumers. Without the Governor’s immediate action, this deficit will continue to expand greatly and Missouri’s consumers and economy will suffer,” concludes Drennan.
The new report, written by Professor Peter B. Dixon and Research Fellow Maureen T. Rimmer at the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University in Australia, relies on an economic model used by the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Agriculture and Homeland Security, as well as International Trade Commission.
Weighing public spending and revenues, U.S. employment rates in various occupations, and price levels for imports and exports, among other things, the authors conclude that “increased enforcement and reduced low-skilled immigration have a significant negative impact on the income of U.S. households.”
The minimal savings in public spending on immigrants now “would be more than offset by losses in economic output and job opportunities for more skilled American workers.”
A policy that reduces low-skilled immigration to about a third less than projected levels, then, over ten years, “would reduce U.S. household welfare by about 0.5 percent, or $80 billion.”
In contrast, “legalization of low-skilled immigrant workers would yield significant income gains for American workers and households,” the study found.
Legalization would eliminate the costs of smuggling illegal immigrants, would allow immigrants to be more productive and openly participate in the economy, and it would “create more openings for Americans in higher skilled occupations.”
The overall positive impact for U.S. households of legalizing these workers over ten years would be “1.27 percent of GDP or $180 billion.”
College of Agriculture Dean John Hammel met with farmers and state lawmakers last month and reaffirmed the university’s interest in the proposed Idaho Center for Environmental and Livestock Studies.
The Times-News reports Hammel acknowledged the difficulty of promoting a pricey project amid the financial challenges facing the university, which is looking to save $3 million by shuttering research and extension centers.
But he says the dairy industry’s prominence in Idaho makes the livestock center a valuable tool for the future. Planners say the center, projected to cost about $37 million, would be one of the nation’s largest dairy research facilities.
Net cash income, at $68.2 billion, is forecast to be down $29.4 billion (30 percent) from 2008, and $3 billion below its 10-year average of $71.2 billion, according to USDA’s latest farm income update released in August.
Expenses are forecast to decline from a record high posted last year, marking the first time costs have dropped since 2002. PD