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Local News

December 12, 2012

Local farmers: Policy isn't working

With attention on fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington, D.C., a group representing family farms and rural groups brought attention Tuesday to a problem facing dairy farmers nationwide. Congress is considering a Farm Bill that could address the situation. The previous national agriculture plan expired Oct. 1.

Several local members of the farm community agreed there is a problem.

The National Family Farm Coalition, based in Washington, D.C., held a teleconference, allowing five people in the dairy farm community around the country to discuss the problems they are facing with the cost of production exceeding the price they are paid for their product.

This included Joel Greeno, of Kendall, Wis., who milks 48 cows on a 160-acre farm. His family has been in farming for more than 100 years, but he was the only member who hasn’t been forced out for financial reasons. That has led him to want to “fix the dairy crisis.”

Gretchen Main of Waterville said her farm has 50 milking cows.

“Farming has always been a hard occupation, and it keeps getting harder,” she said. No business can survive without at least earning the cost of production for its products, she said.

According to a letter the Farm Coalition sent to senators last month, the federal Department of Agriculture said in September that farmers were paid an average price of $19.60 for 100 pounds of milk. The agency reported the average cost of production for that milk is $28.50 per 100 pounds.

The cost of production varies from region to region, Delaware County Cornell Cooperative Extension educator Mariane Kiraly said. Feed is the biggest expense, with corn and soybeans at or near record prices. For example, she said the price of corn was about $180 a ton, and the price of soybeans was $300 a ton in 2009. Recently, the price was $410 and $450 respectively. An average Holstein will produce about 100 pounds of milk a day at the peak of production, she said. It will eat about 33 pounds of grain and other feed.

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