My 200-cow dairy farm is located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, in a corner of the state that borders Canada on two sides. If my farm would have been just 10 miles to the east or the north in Canada, I’d be living in a different world.
For nearly three consecutive years here in the U.S., the milk price paid to dairy farmers has been so low that we are losing money every time we send a load of milk down the road. In Canada, on the other hand, the price of milk is steady, due to a universal system of balancing milk production with market demand. I have friends in Canada that I talk to regularly, and I’ve seen Canadian farms first-hand. The farms are clean, the equipment is well-maintained, the cows have the best of the best. On my farm, I’ve had to delay maintenance, put off purchases, and cut back on minerals, bedding, and protein in the feed, all because of low and unpredictable prices.
Low dairy prices don’t just affect me, they also affect all of the people with whom I do business. What happens to the neighbors and young people I hire, the local feed mill, the implement dealer, the veterinarian, and the people who work on farms when dairy farmers cut back or go under?
And then there are the parts that are harder to see, like the stress farmers face here in the U.S. A farm my size in the U.S. is often neck-deep in debt. According to the USDA, farm sector debt has grown every year since 2003. The feeling of being under the burden of debt with no foreseeable way out takes its toll.
So why is Canada different? It’s because they have a system to prevent farmers from producing more milk than the market demands. Because farmers work together to manage the supply, they have some leverage in negotiating pay prices with processors – unlike here in the U.S., where farmers take whatever price they can get and just hope that they don’t get terminated by their processor, like Grassland, Dean Foods, and Arla have done. Dean Foods, where I ship my milk, isn’t counting their money in millions anymore, they’re counting it in billions – and yet we farmers are losing our shirts.
As a dairy farmer, I’m willing to listen to any possible options that would improve stability and profitability on our dairy farms. That’s why next week I’ll be attending one of the Canadian dairy meetings below to learn more about how Canadian dairy farmers work together with processors and consumers to ensure a stable and profitable industry for all. I encourage all dairy farmers, as well as all ag lenders, veterinarians, feed, seed, and implement dealers, and milk processors to join me. We shouldn’t let an accident of geography keep us from a stable dairy future.
Dairy Supply Management in Canada: How does it work? Would it work here?
Come hear about Canada’s dairy market management system straight from a Canadian dairy farmer. What are the pros and cons of Supply Management? How do Canadian farmers maintain their predictable prices, and how do new farmers get started in a quota-based system? How do processors participate?
Join us at one of these Dairy Together meetings for a positive, educational, and myth-busting conversation about a dairy policy that matches the milk supply with customer demand. Could elements of Canada’s approach work in the U.S.? Let’s talk about it.
Michigan WORKS - Marlette Wednesday, June 13 • 11:30am – 2:30pm 3270 Wilson Street Marlette, MI 48453
Grant Township Hall - Clare Wednesday, June 13 • 7:30pm – 9:30pm 3022 E Surrey Rd – (1-mile W of Jays Sporting Goods) Clare, MI 48617
AgroLiquid Conference Center – St Johns Thursday, June 14 • 11:30am – 2:30pm 3055 W M-21 St Johns, MI 48879
Dorr Township Hall – Dorr Thursday, June 14 • 7:30pm – 9:30pm 4196 18th Street Dorr, MI 49323
Schuler’s Restaurant - Marshall Friday, June 15 • 11:30am – 2:30pm 115 S. Eagle Street
Marshall, MI 49068
Free meal included.
RSVP to Michigan Farmers Union by calling (989) 224–2849 or logging on to www.michiganfarmersunion.org