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Mr. Chairman, Cooperatives are not the problem

Published on 20 July 2010

The following are select comments shared during the open public comment periods at the USDA/U.S. Department of Justice dairy workshop in Madison, Wisconsin, on June 25.

“We’ve always been cooperative members. … It is a relief to hear the change of direction that occurred that the Capper-Volstead Act is not under the gun. My co-op supports our family by finding the best price for our product and a low cost for our inputs. Both those needs are important, as we found out in spades in the last year and a half. As dairy producers we are tremendously good at what we do. We’re not so good at marketing most of the time.

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That is where the strength of our cooperative really helps our business in particular. … My concern, as you have heard from many other people here today, is with the pricing mechanism that we have. We really need to change the way we price milk in this country. Our system worked well when it was created. That was nearly 100 years ago. … We need to have a system that values our product and our contribution to our communities and our consumers.”

Maria Nye
Dairy producer, Delta, Utah

“I urge the Department of Justice to take action now. There are things that can be done on existing enforcement actions and investigation. … We have 12,500 [dairy farms], but we produced 25 billion pounds of milk last year in Wisconsin. We could actually do that with 250 5,000-cow dairies instead of the 12,500 100-cow dairies. And I really think that is important for our communities, for our schools, for our churches, for our land that we keep our distributed production system, but we need a plan that will support families. So I ask the DOJ to take action immediately to make sure a fair price is being given to farmers for their production, meaning cost of production plus a reasonable amount of money to make a living.”

Sara Lloyd
Dairy producer, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

“As we listen this morning and as we’ve had some testimony, the problem of our price is not between the competition of the cooperatives. I don’t think anybody in this room can say that the problem with our milk price is competition from cooperatives or price competition. What we did hear earlier was that there’s a big discrepancy with what the consumer pays and what the farmer receives. In my opinion, the more farmers work together with cooperatives … the closer we become to the consumer and get more of our price. I think that should be our objective as we work together to go ahead. And then this consolidation that we talk about is not the consolidation of cooperatives or farmers – the consolidation is the Wal-Marts of the world.”

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Mike Keegly
Dairy producer, Stearns County, Minnesota

“My personal belief, as a member of Dairy Farmers of America, is that the dynamic of bringing small businessmen together, albeit being dairymen, is a very important function of cooperatives. It’s how we work. … There are times when we succeed, and there are times when the circumstances overwhelm, and I think those are the times we are in right now. … It is ludicrous to believe that any dairy cooperative would work not in the best interest of their very owners, people that supply the milk, people that take part in the selection of management and how the co-op is supposed to proceed. We have a challenge in front of us and I think cooperatives are part of the answer. They’re not the whole answer. … But I think in the end the solutions are there.”

Bill Averbeck
Dairy producer, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

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