Dairy Farm Crisis

Robin Fitch Issue: Section:

My father and grandfather were farmers for many years. My husband has been a dairy farmer since 1980 and I have been farming with him since we were married 20 years ago. We have three children. One is married, lives here in Sullivan County but would love to someday return to the farm as a part timer; one is 19 and has 50 cows of his own in our herd. He would love to continue farming since the lifestyle has been such a part of him since childhood. Our seven-year-old daughter is a farm girl also.
If things keep going the way they have been, there will not be a next generation farm. The dairy crisis is a very sad situation for all Americans and it is an injustice to every one of us. Our government is not telling the American people that they are forcing the Dairy Farmers of this country out of business. This will mean that consumers will be forced to purchase dairy products that are not up to the freshness and safety standards we’re accustomed to.
MPCs, or Milk Protein Concentrates, are approved for use in glue, but somehow they’re being used in many of our food products (cheese, Ensure, protein drinks and bars just a few examples). Most MPCs used in these products do not come from our own dairy farmers, but are shipped into our country from countries such as Poland and China. There has not been enough research done on these products to tell us how safe they are in food. Our country does not check every container that is brought in and we all know about the children in China dying of Melamine poisoning. Do we want that here?
This is what our country is allowing to happen. What better way for terrorist to get to us then through our food supply? For nearly two years, the farmers have received about a 50% cut in our milk check; the consumer has seen little if any lower cost on their store shelves, and the processors and handlers are receiving record profits. The processors and handlers are totally manipulating the market (some Department of Justice hearings are looking into this).

The dairy farmers can't hang on much longer. Day after day we get phone calls telling us about the desperation out there and we see it in our own community and life. There have been over 100 farmer suicides since this has happened in our country. My husband and I have hosted two meetings were we live. We had over 200 dairy farms and Ag businesses at each meeting as well as government officials and staff members. We heard farmer after farmer telling stories of what this crisis was doing to them.

We are a proud group, we are not looking for a hand out and not afraid to work for something. Yet, men and women tell story after story with tears streaming down their faces. Many are going to lose everything they have worked so hard for all their lives.
In most businesses, people can just walk away during hard times. They keep their homes and cars. When we farmers go out, we frequently lose our homes and everything else we’ve worked to earn for, often times, our entire lives.
I’ve seen farmers have to make a choice between keeping their car or paying their mortgage (the car always loses). I’ve been told of some farmers going to dumpsters to get food to feed their families. We can feed the nation but we can't feed ourselves. Farmers have had to tighten our belts so much we don't even have a belt anymore.

We are fighting hard to get a bill passed in Washington that will let the farmers receive cost of production for our product, the bill is S1645 the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement act of 2009. Unfortunately, though, the processors and handlers realize this will save the small farms as well as the cooperate ones. They would like to see us small guys go out so they can have more control.

I consider us small guys to be like the flea on the dog to them -- just a nuisance. They would rather have a few huge ones so they could control what would go on. They have the money and the time to lobby in Washington, so they go down and tell them this bill won't work and put some money into the campaigns and they get what they want -- more in their pockets not ours. We really need to get the message out to the consumer.
My husband, daughter and I went to Washington twice to discuss the solutions to the problem with Congress and Senators; it just fell on deaf ears. We then had a phone conference set up by Senator Specter’s office on the crisis and the solution S1645 scheduled.  I personally called every congressional and senate office in both New York and Pennsylvania the night of the conference call. Not one congressman's office felt that something that would affect every person in their district was important enough. Only Senator Gillibrand from New York, Senator Sanders from Vermont and State Senator Abertine participated. This sent the message loud and clear that our government does not care. It will be up to the consumers to make sure our food supply is safe.
The farmer is the lifeblood of the community. Here in Herkimer County, New York, our local legislators have said since the dairy crisis began we have lost about $800 million dollars in revenue. The farmers have to always fix and repair something and most of it is in our local economy, so much is lost when we can't do that. When we go out of business we will take many others with us (feed dealers, equipment companies, breeders, suppliers, hardware and auto parts people). Our rural economies will be devastated. Our farmers are willing to work 365 days a year, no vacations, no sick days, no overtime, no bonuses or holiday pay, no 401K or retirement plans, because we love what we do. We need to receive cost of production for our product in order to keep feeding our nation.
Our country was built by farmers; we are the backbone of the nation; our back bone is broken and so is our nation: Fix the backbone fix the nation. We are like the wonderful men and women of this nation that fight to keep our country safe from terrorists, we are trying to keep our food supply safe from the same terrorists. If we don't all stand up and fight big corporate America and get our farmers at least cost of production for their product, our food will come from other countries, just like so many other things already do.

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