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Who is shaking the jar?

Contributed by Farrah Newberry Published on 23 July 2021

Over the last year, we have seen many unprecedented events. These events have sparked panic, anger, loss and hurt, making home life and work life difficult. Changes were quickly made, but many issues were left undone.

The impacts of COVID-19 will be felt for generations. In the dairy industry, assistance from the government was needed, but it had a cost. USDA food box purchases moved our perishable product out of the supply chain, but now we are facing production increases that could eventually tip the scale to a future crash in farm milk prices.

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Producers also faced negative producer price differentials, or PPDs, which were a result of the pool price from Class III being higher than the blend price. The current Class I mover formula, which was intended to be revenue-neutral when adopted in 2018, crashed. Producers faced substantially lower Class I prices during the second half of 2020, losing approximately $725 million, according to National Milk Producers Federation.

Around the end of May, talk across dairy groups led most of us to believe that direct aid was coming to offset the losses from negative PPDs in 2020. Several groups were also calling for an emergency hearing to address the Class I mover formula. However, we are close to August now and nothing has happened. Apparently, greed and regional differences have entered the equation. 

There is a Southwestern tale that comes to my mind for society and the dairy industry these days. The story goes like this:  

“If you collect 100 black ants and 100 fire ants and put them in a glass jar, nothing will happen. But if you take the jar, shake it violently and leave it on the table, the ants will start killing each other. Red believes that black is the enemy, while black believes that red is the enemy when the real enemy is the person who shook the jar. The same is true in society. Men vs. women. Black vs. white. Faith vs. science. Young vs. old, etc … Before we fight each other, we must ask ourselves: Who shook the jar?” (Unknown author)

I know that most dairy producers across the country are struggling right now. Feed prices and labor shortages are compounding our problems. I just hope producers will look at who is "shaking the jar" to cause unneeded chaos. The Southeast has seen more than its fair share of misery. If our producers get a little more aid than other parts of the U.S., then so be it. Negative PPDs impacted our region the most, while others reaped access to our markets. Let us pause, stop the bleeding, help each other and fix what is broken.  end mark

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Farrah Newberry is the executive director at Georgia Milk Producers Inc. Email Farrah Newberry.

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