Dairy farmers: Help needed now

KAYLA BREEN/STAFF PHOTOBeekmantown dairy farmer Joe Giroux speaks to Congresswoman Elise Stefanik during a roundtable discussion at the Beekmantown Town Hall on Wednesday. Farms are going under, milk producers told her — those remaining need changes fast in order to survive.

BEEKMANTOWN —  Samuel Dyer says many farms will not survive low milk prices.

"We cannot make milk for nothing anymore," he said. "Something has to be done."

A dairy farmer of 35 years and also Beekmantown town supervisor, Dyer attended a roundtable hosted by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) at the Beekmantown Town Hall on Monday.

With the 2014 Farm Bill set to expire this year, Stefanik asked local farmers to share their challenges to help her better represent their viewpoints.

"This is your opportunity to raise to me all of your concerns," she said.



Stefanik began by presenting her prospective changes to the upcoming Farm Bill, including greater support to new farmers, a study to verify feed costs, and positive changes to the Margin Protection Program.

But Dyer and many other dairy farmers told her the next Farm Bill will be too little too late and rallied for immediate change.

"What you mentioned was great," Dyer told the congresswoman, "but that's not what's going to fix this problem."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of a conventional half-gallon of milk currently averages $1.55.

During April of last year, the same half-gallon averaged $2.47. 

Dyer believes the decrease in milk prices is caused by overproduction. 

"There has got to be some form of production management," he said.




Dr. George Palmer attended the meeting to support the farmers for whom he provides veterinary services; he agreed that dairy farms are out of time.

"We've lost seven farms since last fall in my practice," he said.

Stefanik said she understands the concerns and hopes to address both the long-term and the short-term problems dairy farmers face. 

"We need to fix the long-term issues — and we need to act immediately for some of our farms that are struggling month to month," she said.



Many dairy farmers also expressed concern regarding a surplus of powered milk.

The dry milk, they said, was produced with the intent to send to other countries. 

Brad McDonald said this is affecting fair pricing.  

"We've got to get a third party to step in to get rid of this surplus to make the milk prices right."

Palmer fears the United States is withholding agriculture from trade in support of political battles. 

"We hear that the reason why the milk prices are depressed is because there are such large stores of powered milk," he said. "Why can't we export the powdered milk?

"The dairy farmers should not be used as a political tool."  



Farmers also called for federal programs that would promote milk and its benefits for children.

Stefanik mentioned regulations that used to stop schools from stocking certain percentages and flavors. 

"We have loosened those up," she said. "We're moving that in the right direction.

"That is part of how we're marketing it and our availability to the next generation — the importance of drinking milk and consuming dairy products."

Discussions also circulated around marketing tactics of non-dairy products, the cost of milk production and several other issues with the industry.

"The dairy industry is a really important economic driver in our district, and our dairy farmers are going through a crisis right now," Stefanik said after the meeting.

"These sessions are always important for me to hear feedback, in real time, about what challenges they face."


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Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle

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