Current Progressive Dairy digital edition
Advertisement

Letter to the Editor: Response to Kirk Kardashian's article

PD Staff Published on 30 August 2013

Dear Editor,

I was very disappointed in the article by the Dartmouth professor, Kirk Kardashian, on “Freedom vs. Security for the Dairy Farm.” I was hoping for a balanced and unbiased article … which it was not.

advertisement

advertisement

When are we in the dairy industry going to wake up and realize that the processor is a vital part of our team and not our adversary? Kardashian’s last sentence got my “hackles up” and thus my letter to you.

He wrote, “It’s really about the interests of farmers and consumers versus processors.” Lord help us if this shortsighted mentality pervades our whole industry.

Certainly, the processor wants an inexpensive source of quality milk. I want an inexpensive source of quality fertilizer, feed, machinery, buildings, veterinary service and labor.

But I know I have to pay well if I want the quality and service that I must have, especially from my employees. Our processors are no different.

They don’t want to be jumping around to different farmers all the time for the cheapest supply of questionable quality milk … so they treat their farm milk suppliers well to ensure themselves an adequate supply of quality milk.

advertisement

This is the American way in business. You treat your customer, or supplier, fairly so it is “win-win” for both parties. You do not stay in business very long unless you do.

As dairy farmers, we depend on our processors to innovate and find markets for our milk. Greek yogurt is one example of how our processors are finding and moving our milk to new markets.

Another present challenge for our processors is packaging our milk products in a form that will sell on international markets and bring us the international prices that recently are much higher than our domestic prices.

We have a growing dairy industry. In 1965, we produced 115 billion pounds of milk per year. Today, we are producing over 200 billion pounds per year. We have a choice:

1. We can treat our processors as enemies, shrink our production with “supply management” and sit around and wonder what happened to our profitable and vibrant dairy industry.

2. We can work with our processors as a team, supply them with large quantities of quality milk and keep our Federal Milk Marketing Orders open to all.

advertisement

We should let the Federal Orders determine an equitable price for all farmers based on the supply of milk products and demand for milk products in the marketplace.

If we choose this second course, we will continue to have a growing and vibrant milk industry supplying the milk products needed for our growing export markets and growing domestic markets.

Another comment in Kardashian’s article was his statement, “One reason that existing safety nets do little to mitigate adverse conditions is that farmers respond to low prices by making more milk, which drives the prices down further.” Kardashian uses this argument to justify bringing quotas to our industry. His argument is faulty.

This may be true of an individual farmer, but our whole milk industry contracts when prices become low. Quite frankly, the message of low milk prices is that it may be time to grow corn and beans instead of milking cows.

It might be time to get out of a business that you are not very good at. It might be that your banker does not like your lack of profits and asks you to put off that expansion.

It might be that fewer young folks are attracted into the dairy business. Low prices slow down overall production. Low prices do not increase production, as Kardashian claims.

In a market economy, low prices send a clear message that it is time to slow down. CWT tried to slow down production with its “whole-herd buyout program.”

We farmers just bred our cows with sexed semen and did every thing to keep our heifers alive and production kept going up.

It was not till the low prices of 2009 that the supply of milk from America’s farms slowed down. Low prices do serve a very valuable function, and we should much prefer occasional low prices to a new government bureau regulating how much milk we farmers are allowed to produce.

Progressive Dairyman is the premier dairy magazine of our industry. I respectfully request that your magazine present both sides of our “Freedom vs. Security” debate that is so important for the future of our industry.

George B. Mueller
Dairyman
Clifton Springs, New York

LATEST BLOG

LATEST NEWS