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January 23, 2010

Production levels seen as a key to milk prices

Production levels seen as one key to milk prices

Reigning in milk production levels is seen as one way to stabilize volatile milk prices that have left many local dairy farms in dire straits.

Ellenburg dairy farmer James Normandin organized a meeting with state Sen. Betty Little and representatives of two dairy cooperatives last month. Normandin said Clinton County dairy farmers lost an estimated $20.9 million in 2009. Across the state, that figure is believed to have been $669 million, he said.

Normandin said he lost about $60,000 last year, due to low milk prices and high expenses, such as feed, fuel and fertilizer.

The price farmers received for the milk they produced dropped drastically in 2009, from a record high of $21.90 per hundredweight in Nov. 2007 to $11.50 by February 2009. That is seen as part of the worldwide economic crises, he said, as worldwide demand for exported milk dried up.

"We need to keep milk production in line with what we can use," Normandin said.

There are several proposals out there to address the price dairy farmers receive. Representatives of Agrimark and St. Albans Cooperative Creamery attended the meeting to discuss their cooperatives proposals. Tom Gates, cooperative relations manager at St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, said 80 percent of its member farmers support some sort of milk supply management.

The Board of the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery has come out in support of a milk production growth management program similar to the Holstein Association's Dairy Price Stabilization Program or a modified CWT program.

In a statement issued in August, St. Albans Cooperative Creamery said "the purpose of such a program would be to provide a means to achieve more stable milk prices to all dairy farmers."

The board believes such a growth management program needs to be mandatory for all dairy farm operations in the United States. It should be governed by dairy farmers and allow them to make their own decisions on their milk production growth.

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