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Dairy farmers urge for pricing fix

Dairy farmers had a resounding call for Congress to update the milk pricing system during a Senate Ag Committee subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Christina Zuiderveen, an Iowa dairy farmer with family dairy ties in Michigan, Indiana, and South Dakota, testified on how the Federal Milk Marketing Order was meant to pay for milk fairly and equitably but is failing.

“Good intentions to create a system with uniform prices has resulted in a distorted system that is now coming unglued to the detriment of dairy families whose income depends on that value of a bend of fluid milk, milk powder, and butter,” she says. 

She and others are calling for a long-term solution to fix the milk pricing system.  Mississippi dairy farmer Mike Ferguson says a change is urgently needed before the next farm bill.

“If we have another year like we had in 2020, there won’t be that many farmers especially in the Southeast that are going to be in business,” he says.

Lowell Davenport, a small dairy farmer in New York, says the market needs to better reflect the product mix of dairy products and market swings, and outlined issues his farm has within fluid milk markets within his state.

Committee chair Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says consolidation along with increasing input costs and low milk prices for several years have driven dairy farmers to bankruptcy and even suicide.  She says from 2003 and 2020, there has been a 55 percent decrease in dairy operations nationwide and the milk pricing system is failing to meet the needs of today’s farmers.

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