Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018

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Below is a snapshot of some of the momentum that came out of the Dairy Crisis of 2018……And a letter supporting the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act as shared by the Food and Water Watch Organization in pdf format and pasted here.

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What is it? H.R.6800 – Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018
115th Congress (2017-2018) | Get alerts

Shown Here: Introduced in House (09/13/2018)[Congressional Bills 115th Congress] [From the U.S. Government Publishing Office] [H.R. 6800 Introduced in House (IH)]
115th CONGRESS 2d Session
H. R. 6800

To impose a moratorium on large agribusiness, food and beverage
manufacturing, and grocery retail mergers, and to establish a
commission to review large agriculture, food and beverage
manufacturing, and grocery retail mergers, concentration, and market


“ATTN: Agriculture/Antitrust Leg. Staff
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

November 1, 2018

Re: Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018

Dear Senators and Representatives:

The undersigned 213 farm, food, rural, community, consumer, faith and other advocacy organizations wholeheartedly endorse the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 (Sen. Booker S. 3404/Rep. Pocan H.R. 6800) and urge you to co-sponsor this landmark legislation.

Since the end of the recession, there has been a wave of food and agribusiness mega-mergers that have further consolidated one of the most concentrated sectors in the U.S. economy. These mergers have included farm inputs (seeds and fertilizer), agricultural commodity processors (pork packers, flour millers and more), food manufacturing and supermarkets and retailers. This hyper-consolidation has contributed to declining farm incomes, loss of choice of inputs for farmers, stagnant wages and increased layoffs for workers, higher grocery prices and fewer choices for consumers, the erosion of rural economic vitality and a less resilient food system overall.

The Booker-Pocan Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 (S.3404/H.R. 6800) would offer a much needed strategic pause in food and agribusiness merger-mania in order to assess the impact corporate consolidation has on farmers, workers, consumers and communities and recommend improvements to antitrust enforcement.

Corporate consolidation throughout the food chain has already had substantial and growing negative economic impacts. These trends would only worsen as the corporate tax cuts spur even more mega-mergers. Few firms dominate farm business landscape: Only a few firms control almost all the supplies farmers buy such as seeds, fertilizer and farm equipment, raising prices and reducing farmers’ choices. Recent seed and fertilizer company mergers threaten to further raise operating costs for farmers. At the same time, farmers sell into very concentrated markets where four firms control almost the entire market and can push down the prices farmers receive for their crops and livestock. For example, the top four firms control 86 percent of corn processing, 85 percent of cattle slaughter, 71 percent of pork packing and 79 percent of soybean crushing.

Independent farm income harmed by growing consolidation:Consolidation has contributed to the rising prices farmers pay for supplies and the declining prices farmers receive for their crops and livestock. Farmers now only receive about 14 cents for every dollar spent at the grocery store. Net farm income has declined by half since 2013 and now half of all farmers have negative on-farm income — which means that costs of production now exceeds farm earnings.

Corporate domination of farming through unfair contracts:The newer model of vertical integration — where companies own multiple, successive links in the food chain — coerces farmers to surrender their independence to large companies through contracts that direct how farmers run their operations. Companies can and have used these increasingly common contracts to impose unfair, deceptive or even abusive practices on farmers.

Food prices are rising faster than typical wages and families have fewer meaningful food choices: Food prices at the supermarket have risen faster than earnings for typical workers. Since 2008, the annual increase in real prices have jumped nearly three times faster than typical earnings. At the same time, mergermania has left fewer firms in control of more supermarket shelves. Consumers have the illusion of choice at the grocery store, with many products and varieties sold by a dwindling number of companies that can more easily raise prices.

Consolidation across the food chain is harming workers and exacerbating income inequality:There is growing consensus that economic concentration is contributing to widening economic inequality as bigger monopolistic firms fail to raise wages and benefits for their workers. Larger food and agribusiness companies can extract economic value from the food system by pushing down on wages, benefits and working conditions. Mergers often involve substantial layoffs as partnering companies shutter factories and facilities to generate cost savings to be passed onto investors.

Food and agribusiness consolidation erodes rural economic vitality: Fewer, larger food and agribusiness companies have sapped economic activity in rural areas, contributing to the declining number of independent farmers and main street businesses. These farms and small businesses are the economic engine of rural America. The loss of this local economic activity ripples across communities, eroding the stability and sustainability of religious congregations, schools, hospitals and other community institutions. The unabated consolidation in the food and agribusiness industries has only accelerated in recent years. We urge you to co-sponsor the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratium and Antitrust Review Act of 2018 to give America’s farmers, workers, consumers and communities a needed break from the merger-mania that has undermined economic security for so many families.


ActionAid USA
Advocates for Urban Agriculture (IL)
Agriculture & Land Based Training Association (CA)
Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association
Alabama State Association of Cooperatives
Alaska Farmers Union
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
American Agriculture Movement
American Grassfed Association
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Assoc. (WI)
Angelic Organics Learning Center and Farm (IL)
Arizona Consumers Council Foundation
Arkansas Farmers Union
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake County Farmers’ Union (OH)
Berks Gas Truth (PA)
Bioregional Strategies
Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (NC)
Black Farmers and Ranchers of New Mexico
Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH)
Bull Mountain Land Alliance (MT)
California Dairy Campaign
California Farmers Union
California Institute for Rural Studies
Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform
Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment
Carbon County Resource Council (MT)
Cattle Producers of Louisiana
Cattle Producers of Washington
Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights
Center for Rural Affairs
Central Maryland Beekeepers Assoc.
Central Montana Resource Council
Central Plains Organic Farmers Association
Church Women United in New York State
Citizens for Sanity.Com, Inc. (FL)
Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Association
Community Alliance for Global Justice (WA)
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Community Farm Alliance (KY)
Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (MT)
Community Food and Justice Coalition (CA)
Consumer Action
Consumer Federation of America
Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias
The Cornucopia Institute
Cottage House Inc. (AL)
Cuatro Puertas (NM)
Dakota Resource Council (ND)
Dakota Rural Action (SD)
Dawson Resource Council (MT)
DC Greens
Dr. Bronner’s
Endangered Habitats League (CA)
Equal Exchange
Fair World Project (OR)
Family Farm Action
Family Farm Defenders
Farm Aid
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farm Women United
Farms Not Factories (WI)
Farmworker Association of Florida
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance
Food & Water Watch
Food Chain Workers Alliance
Food for Maine’s Future
Food Works (IL)
Franciscan Action Network
Friends of the Earth U.S.
GMO-Free Florida
The Good Food Brigade
Government Accountability Project
Grassroots International
Green Gate Farms (TX)
GROW North Texas
Hanover Co-op Food Stores (NH)
Hawaii Farmers Union
HEAL Food Alliance
Health Care Without Harm
Hempstead Project Heart (WI)
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Idaho Organization of Resource Councils
Illinois Farmers Union
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska
Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming
Indian Nations Conservation Alliance
Indiana Farmers Union
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
The Institute for Rural America (IA)
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Farmers Union
Island Grown Initiative
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (MD)
Kansas Cattlemen’s Association
Kansas Farmers Union
Kansas Rural Center
The Land Connection (IL)
Land Stewardship Project (MN)
Main Street Alliance
Main Street Cheese, LLC (NH)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Mainstreet Project (MN)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (WI)
Michigan Farmers Union
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
Midwest Environmental Advocates (WI)
Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Association
Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota National Farmers Organization
Mississippi Assoc. of Cooperatives
Missouri Farmers Union
Missouri National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Missouri’s Best Beef Cooperative
Montana Farmers Union
Murray County Independent Cattlemen’s
Association (OK)
National Consumers League
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farmers Organization
National Farmers Union
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc.
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
National Organic Coalition
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Women Involved in Farm Economics
National Young Farmers Coalition
Nature Abounds
Nebraska Farmers Union
Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics
Nevada Live Stock Association
New England Farmers Union
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
New Hampshire Right to Know GMO
New York Women Involved in Farm Economics
Next 7 (CO)
North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss
Prevention Project
North Dakota Farmers Union
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – CT
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – MA
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – NH
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – NJ
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – NY
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – VT
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)
Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers Assoc.
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (MA)
Northwest Forest Worker Alliance (CA, OR & WA)
Ohio Conference on Fair Trade
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Ohio Farmers Union
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project
Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association
Oklahoma Stewardship Council
Open Markets Institute
Oregon Rural Action
Organic Consumers Association
Organic Farmers Association
Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing
Organic Producers Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota
(OPINS) Co-op
Organic Seed Alliance
Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association
Organization for Competitive Markets
PCC Community Markets (WA)
Pesticide Action Network North America
Pesticide Free Zone (CA)
PLBA Housing Development Corporation (AL)
Pollinator Stewardship Council
Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)
Public Citizen
R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America
Ranch Foods Direct (CO)
Raritan Headwaters Association (NJ)
Renewing the Countryside (MN)
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Roots of Change (CA)
Rosebud Protective Association (MT)
Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA
Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers
Fund (SC)
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
Rural Development Leadership Network (NY)
Rural Vermont
Save New Mexico Seeds
Small Planet Institute
Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
South Dakota Farmers Union
Southern Colorado Livestock Association
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Spokane County Cattlemen (WA)
Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network
Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville
Sustainable Food Center (TX)
Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc.
Toxic Free NC
Toxics Information Project
Utah Farmers Union
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
Waller County Farmers and Ranchers Cooperative (TX)
Waterkeeper Alliance
Weiser River Resource Council (ID)
Western Colorado Alliance
Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)
Winston County Self Help Cooperative (MS)
Wisconsin Organic Marketing Alliance
Wisconsin Farmers Union”

and also shared here at

Getting a grip on tractor ergonomics for smaller-stature operators

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Getting a grip on tractor ergonomics for smaller-stature operators
Melissa Bravo for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 December 2018

Several dairy farmers boldly stood before an audience of 400 people

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From the Wisconsin Farmers Union
Nov 8 at 5:03 PM [ e- newsletter]

Hello Dairy Friends,

Last week National Milk Producers Federation, the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, and the United Dairy Industry Association held a joint annual meeting in Phoenix, offering a great opportunity to hear what industry leaders are saying about the dairy crisis.

The meeting was mostly characterized as ‘business as usual.’ Reports were given, corporate partnerships praised, and the role of increasing export markets highlighted. But the conversations on the sidelines, in the hallways, and over meals offered hope that momentum toward real solutions is building. There is strong support in the countryside for dairy policy that matches supply with profitable demand.

Several dairy farmers boldly stood before an audience of 400 people and asked NMPF questions like, “what role are you taking in getting us a better price and dealing with the oversupply of milk?” The leadership either dodged or redirected the questions, leaving members feeling dissatisfied. Nevertheless, growing interest in supply management is hard to deny. We need to keep beating the drum, contacting co-op board members, and asking hard questions to push National Milk to take a stand to support family dairy farmers.

Several of our Wisconsin Dairy Together members did a fantastic job with a news story that aired on NBC Nightline last week. They highlighted the stress of low milk prices, the uncertainty of trade conflicts, and shared their thoughts on the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. Kudos to these folks for taking time away from their busy days to do a media interview! Click here to watch the full segment.

Reports are rolling in about the impacts of the new USMCA trade deal, and many say it won’t amount to much on farmers’ milk checks. One analysis shows four times more tariff pain than financial gain with the new NAFTA. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy stated that the trade deal falls flat for farmers, and pointed to the real issue plaguing the U.S dairy industry:

“The U.S. dairy crisis stems from massive oversupply produced through mega-sized dairy operations where dairy farmers continue to suffer from prices below the cost of production. In Canada, the supply management system has kept a majority of dairy farms in the hands of family farmers, without reliance on public subsidies. Trade agreements and the U.S. Farm Bill should prioritize local production and rural livelihoods. Weakening Canada’s successful supply management program will do nothing to achieve those goals.”

You wouldn’t think that cranberries and dairy have much in common, but when it comes to an oversupply problem, the two are one in the same. Cranberry growers are planning to dump one fourth of their crop this year due to massive oversupply that is keeping prices low. Sound familiar?

The USDA approved a volume control program in September, giving farmers a chance to hold on for another season. Meanwhile the cranberry industry is cooking up clever ideas to drive demand for the tart fruit that most of us forget about until November. Longer term solutions like cutting back supply or halting expansion plans are not on the table, however. The Cranberry Marketing Committee is not allowed to tell producers how or how much to produce.

Clearly the approach of ‘produce to the hilt and pray for a market’ is not working for dairy, and its not working for cranberries either. We need ag policy that prioritizes a profitable return for farmers without creating unnecessary waste, environmental harm, or exorbitant taxpayer subsidies.

In case you missed it, WFU Government Relations Director Kara O’Connor wrote an excellent opinion piece that explains why farmers are forced to overproduce and accept prices below their cost of production, and who benefits at farmers expense. Click here to read the article in Hoard’s Dairyman.

Mark your calendars for December 7th! The American Antitrust Institute and UW Law School are hosting a Food and Agriculture Competition Roundtable in Madison, featuring National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson as a speaker. We plan to host a reception the night before the event for farmers and the media. See the attached flyers for more details!

Do you know other dairy farmers who would like to receive these updates? They can either subscribe to or send me an email to be added to the list. We also host conference calls every two weeks to keep the conversation going–give me a call if you’d like to participate!

Many thanks,
Bobbi Wilson
Government Relations Associate,
Wisconsin Farmers Union
Mobile: 608 234-3741
This email was sent on behalf of Wisconsin Farmers Union located at 117 West Spring Street, Chippewa Falls, WI . To unsubscribe click here. If you have questions or comments concerning this email contact Wisconsin Farmers Union

[11-16-2018 update provided by Bobbie Wilson]

Reach out and ask a farmer how they are doing and really listen to the answer…

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Photo by Melissa Bravo

Below is a post that the Membership Director at Wisconsin Farmers Union, Deb Jakubek shared. She does not know who the original author is – but several farmers told me they added to this or change the wording to reflect their daily farming routine.

God bless you all for writing this and asking us to pass it along.

September 19, 2018

“We are farmers – you don’t have to understand us…We know that all external medicine is either waterproof, blue or yellow. We have no problem eating a sandwich directly after cleaning the barn. We know why a thermometer has to have a string attached to the end. We are not welcome in Laundromats. We can lower or raise our voice instantly by 5 octaves to shout at the dog who has decided to stalk… god only knows what. We would sooner quit a relationship than our hobby. We talk to our truck to make it up the hill. We have better insurance for our farm and animals than for our car. We know more about our cows diet than our own. We buy grain and hay before buying our own food. It’s common to see us wearing barn clothes in public. We get along better with most animals than people. We are quick to lend a hand in a crisis. A new truck is a luxury car. More written words are scribbled in the dust or dirt than on paper. We will always make time for a friend. A hand shake is our bond. All of that said, we are still human and still have bad days, reach out and ask how we are doing and really listen to our answer. You may be the reason we continue that day…”

A message from a dairy farmer….

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Stewart Dairy Farm
September 13 at 10:13 PM ·
(Posted with Permission from Dusty Stewart).

So I wrote this tonight because my heart breaks for all the dairy farmers shutting down their operations because they just cant afford to keep going. I also wrote it in a sense for myself as well. I didnt have to sell my cows I made the choice to do it. Some but not all have sold but each time one leaves I feel a part of me leave with them. It’s sad and this week for some reason has been particularly tough on me. Wondering what is my purpose. So I’ll share this and I hope it makes sense:

When a farmer loses his purpose he tries hard to hide it on the surface. While deep down inside he wants to run and hide, not to hide because of fear but so no one see’s his tears. See farmers are tough and the life is rough and no matter what we give it’s never enough. It’s never enough only in our own eyes and most people will never know how hard he really tries. He tries so hard to succeed and to fill a need. Whether its milking cows or sowing seed farmers work endless hours because its America we feed. We cry, we sweat, we bleed, but we carry on because we are a special breed. Rise long before dawn and work past dark.

The life of a dairy farmer is no walk in the park. Day after day another dairy calls it quits. Goodbyes are said and the cows are loaded after all this there the farmer sits, sits and wonders what might have been if he had it to do all over again. Farmers are a special breed, they will never tell you what they need. To proud to ask for help and always count themselves last. But if you call on a farmer they will come running fast. That’s how we were taught from generations past. Take care of your neighbor because that’s what God would do.

So to all the dairies out there that have milked their last cow, that does not make you a failure then or now. Failure is not trying, and you gave it all you had. So hold your head up high and know on God you can rely. For He sees the work you have done and one day He will say good work my faithful son. You cared for my creation and did the best you could. It’s okay to shed some tears from all the weary years. But My child find joy in this, think of all the seeds you have sown, I’m not speaking of the crops grown, but of the love and compassion you have shown. To animals and mankind alike you gave your whole heart and did your part.

God has a purpose and for you a new start do not grow weary and believe in your heart, rest in His comfort and He will do His part. God bless all the dairy farmers. Written by Dusty Stewart #stewartdairyfarm #faithfamilyandfarming #brownswiss #dairy #dairystrong

Emergency Session on Dairy Crisis Unites Voices on Need for Base Price and Quota

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Emergency Session on Dairy Crisis Unites Voices on Need for Base Price and Quota

August 13, 2018 – by Melissa Bravo

AgriMark, Albany New York Emergency Session on Dairy Crisis Unites Voices

You know when a national dairy industry cooperative calls for intervention from the Federal Government, financial, mental, physical and emotional health has reached a tipping point for owners and workers.

Who are the enslaved owner-workers of this mega industry? They are the dairy farmer down the road in crisis for the third consecutive year – and they are not alone.

This is just one cooperative (coop) shouting for help for their membership, taking the lead to save their own. The rest are hoping they will be rescued too, but their leadership has yet to speak up loud enough to be heard.

But the organization went further than this press release and letter to the Secretary. They did so by acknowledging the demand of their members to hold a public meeting.

When it rains it pours. That adage held true on Monday, August 13 when hundreds of farmers from all over the country hired someone else to milk their cows and do the chores so they could drive to Albany.

You see, the power the remaining 40,000 (or less) dairy farmers have at this point cannot be ignored.

The industry and the federal regulations promulgated 80 years ago to protect the individual independent producer farmer at a time when three times that number existed are now in danger of being declared null and void.

In a democracy and free market economy people have the right to pursue a career, market the fruits of their labor, set a price above cost of production, and invest in how they choose to live within the social structure of their country. No one does all that to brag about being below the poverty level.

The monopoly controlling agriculture production is taking away that fundamental right to prosperity. The indifference of our elected officials to protect the citizenship of this country from ‘harm’ reeks of deliberate collusion to take away this constitutional right.

The lack of oversight and enforcement of existing federal and state authorities, in the last two decades, to prevent the consolidation and integration of the agriculture commodity sector into one, two, three entities – one giant three legged stool of monopoly – has brought us all to this meeting.

Canada reacted to the plight of her farming community by passing a national quota system fifty years ago to stabilize dairy product price so they could survive. She moved to protect her own and she is damn proud of it, and so are her producers.

It is time the United States Department of Agriculture acts to protect her own. All of us, and it is long overdue. As the guest speaker from the Canadian Dairy Farmers of America stated in this meeting, “Once you get over Fifty everything goes to Hell.”

The proposals presented at this historic meeting focused on how the United States Government could rebuild this ruin, this utter destruction, this catastrophic list of losses inflicted upon the tax paying dairy product producers in this Nation. Whose entire purpose for living is the right to farm to produce food to feed their family, their township, their county, their state, and their country profitably – first; before taking on the noble task of feeding the rest of the world.

Sadly the reverse priority is what has brought us to this climatic event in our food independence as a Nation.

AgriMark and her farmer members were not alone at this meeting. Did the legislature representing the United States of America attend? Perhaps they sent someone. Did prospective legislatures championing the cause to rescue the drowning swimmer attend? Absolutely.

The call to action did bring out policy analysts, media representatives, economists and oh boy, yeah, lawyers. Antitrust Lawyers, Free Commerce Lawyers, Interstate Trade Lawyers, Tariff Lawyers, and even one or two well-meaning anti-animal farming advocates who clearly did not see the danger of coming into a collapsing building and shouting the roof was leaking.

Are consumers in this country aware they are being blamed for causing the conditions that led to the farmer drowning in this ‘the worst it’s been since historical records began’ man-made flood of milk catastrophe? The lawyers would like us to think so.

I personally think this crisis is because of the never ending flow and storage of milk product surplus caused by two million too many dairy cows under the control of a few mega corporations posing as ‘a family owned farming business’, and the manipulation of volume subjected to piece meal price incentives and deductions, and the control by the monopoly on how food is presented, marketed, distributed and sold to the consumer.

Butter, butter, better, better… while kids drink the swill, tasteless, flavorless water left over.

Perhaps it is time to define in law for the purpose of supporting our constitution that a handful of multi-billion dollar ‘family farm business’ are not the same as 100,000 farming families scratching out a living from farming. In fact the one has usurped the market, the right, and the ability of the other to survive – and this is the end result.

I want a do over. We need a two tiered system to get a handle on this class system that now exists in this country. Equal rights for both and equal gain and pain. Equal in the market place which means not allowing monopoly of price, volume, buyer, seller, legislature, law, or policy for the gain of a few over the expense of the most. Is that too much to ask of the elected leadership of these United States?

The price of butter, cheddar by the way, is set by the Federal Government and the manipulation of supply and demand to funnel that price premium into investors pure profit line instead of requiring cost of production be paid first (paying the farmer a living wage is a cost of production) is the gold standard these days. Seriously, the more you like your cheese and whey the more they are going to make it. Milk is now the by-product of that gold brick and being dumped as waste. You can’t make the one without the other. If the market has reversed the value of milk components, the payment to the producer farmer has to as well.

By the way, if you are a consumer of dairy products and you purchase dairy products through the retail market you might want to take stock of the way self-interest groups use the power of archaic laws to protect ‘you’ against the farmer trying to stabilize market conditions. The examples provided at the opening of this hearing were clearly meant to discourage farmers from ever uniting against the trucker – dealer- processor – buyer – seller trillion dollar corporate entities that control the advertising and marketing of the entire food chain in this country.

It would be nice if a group would step forward and challenge this abuse of laws written when whole food came from multiple individual independent farmers working there and your fields in your own county, from your own country, to put food on your plate. Not from a petri-dish experiment cooked up in a laboratory after mashing up some almonds and caterpillar parts.

I was unable to attend this historic event in person. So I watched it online, as did thousands of others staying put due to the ongoing flood situation in NY and PA; or by the raging fires in California; or the dust storms in Arizona. We are indebted to the Leach’s for putting the meeting up live on their FaceBook feed.

And there is more good news. The event host has made available a website where you can find all of the proposals submitted for the meeting up for review and comment. See for yourself the state of the dairy industry and where we need to go from here. There is also a section where you can submit a new proposal. They are hoping that this website serves as a starting point for proposals to be reviewed and start gaining support from the industry.

I submitted three band aid proposals for the hearing and will make them available on this website. Perhaps if we all do the same, unite behind the voices and groups who have the tenacity and desire to help, we can bring not only immediate financial relief to the dairy farmer but a lifetime of support.

*August 24th – correction noted (Price of milk is set by cheddar, not butter, thank you reader)

Giant Hogweed in the News

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Article adapted from

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) in Pennsylvania

By Melissa A. Bravo, M.S. Weed Science, Invasive Species Specialist

Hi everyone, over the past few weeks, a plant called Giant Hogweed has been in the news and I am sure you have been wondering if we have any around here. Hogweed is a member of the carrot family, a large member! The flower looks very much like Queen Anne’s lace only it is the size of a hula hoop. The sap can cause severe burns if the juice is not washed off and your skin is exposed to sunlight for an extended period of time. This is called a phyto-photo-dermatitis reaction and it can result in a severe 2nd and even a 3rd degree burn in extreme cases. Unfortunately, it is also highly invasive once it hits the riparian corridor and moves out into the flood plain during flooding instances. Because it is a federal noxious weed it is illegal to plant, sell or trade this plant. Mostly what we see now are wild populations that keep spreading. Many homeowners still have this plant in their landscape beds and are just unaware of the program or the problem.

I was the Giant Hogweed Program Manager for Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2012. I recently conducted a radio interview on the plant and its poisonous attributions. Here is a link to The Poison Terminator podcast Go to!0329c

PA Program: Pennsylvania discovered its first wild population of giant hogweed in 1985 in Erie County two years after the federal government declared the plant a noxious weed. GH has probably been in Pennsylvania since the early 1900’s but only in the last 25 years have wild populations been reported to officials. Rochester, NY has records of plant sightings dating to the early 1900’s.

In 1983, the United States Department of Agriculture Plant Pest Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) declared the plant a federal noxious weed and targeted giant hogweed (GH) for eradication nationwide. As of 2011, GH had been found in 18 states and in Canada. It was added to the PA Noxious Weed Control List in 2000. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and USDA/APHIS launched the GH Hotline in 1998 and created a national giant hogweed campaign to promote awareness of this poisonous plant.

As of 2012, the last year I worked on the program, 453 sites have been found in 17 PA counties. My crew and I worked throughout the state educating homeowners and eradicating the infestations with mechanical and chemical control measures. The closest population to Tioga County was in Potter County along the streambank below Carter Camp to Ole’ Bull Park. More than 55% of the Pennsylvania populations were found in Erie County. Nearby sites are known in Crawford, Mercer, McKean, Venango, and Warren Counties. Isolated sites are also known from Elk, Potter, Butler, Blair, Huntingdon, Carbon, and Wayne counties.

The state wide targeted eradication program was very successful and we declared 325 of these sites eradicated in 2012. As of 2012, only 74 (16%) of the 453 known sites in Pennsylvania remained active. However stream bank sites must always be monitored as seed may be reintroduced during flooding events.
New York began its eradication program in 2011 and quickly identified more than 900 sites in 35 counties. Here is the link to the NY program

If you have any questions or concerns about poisonous plants on your property please give me a call.

You Want Him To Do What?

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Melissa Bravo for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 July 2018

On June 9, I posted an ad for a registered 20-month-old Angus bull on and an online livestock forum with the keywords “high-performance genetics” along with an outstanding picture taken with a Nikon D800 and a 24-120mm F/4 lens.

Follow this link to read the full article in Progressive Cattleman.

Straight Talk by Pete Hardin on the Dairy Crisis

1,000 total views, 2 views today

Concerned dairy producers,

If you do not subscribe to the dairy’s best information and insights newsletter and economic analysis report entitled “The Milkweed“, I encourage you to do so.

Below is a snip-it of a Pete’s take on the crisis in NY as written in the May 2018 issue.

The July issue is chock full of economic data and price points and spells out what the trade tariffs and hostilities towards our neighboring countries are doing to the real time commodity market for millions of U.S. Farmers. In his Straight Talk column, Hardin talks about the “dangerous witch’s brew of events threatening to boost inflation while simultaneously pushing the nation’s economy into recession.”

If you would like a complete copy of this article “The New York State Dairy Farm Crisis” please contact me or the MilkWeed.

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Pete Hardin

The Milkweed

Pete Hardin, Publisher & Editor
PO Box 10
Brooklyn WI 53521-0010

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The New York State Dairy Farm Crisis
During my wet-eared years in the dairy industry (early/mid 1970s), on long rides heading home to Syracuse, from night-time dairy meetings in upstate New York with my old boss at Eastern Milk Producers – John C. York – he’d vent his frustrations at what he called the “Cornell/Dairymen’s League/Agway/Farm Bureau Conspiracy.” Those organizations, York alleged, were controlling the New York State dairy industry – to the detriment of dairy farmers and competing organizations. York was right. Well, here we are, nearly 50 years later. The New York State dairy industry is in a terrible crisis — particularly for small and medium-sized farms, the likes of which built rural New York’s economy. Among York’s alleged conspirators, the Dairymen’s League (founded by my great-grandfather) ultimately morphed, through merger, into Dairy Farmers of America. Agway – the Northeast’s then predominant farm supply cooperative – went bankrupt around 2005 (but senior management was well taken care of). Cornell University remains Cornell University – championing mega-dairies, biotechnology, etc. NY Farm Bureau remains seemingly content to whistle “Dixie” as the state’s dairy economy goes to Hades. If old John York were alive today, he’d include the Farm Credit System among New York’s dairy conspirators – particularly with the antics happening in the area served by the Watertown, NY office. In New York State, Farm Credit continues doling out loans to mega-dairies for expansions … while denying and/or cutting off credit to some lesser-sized dairy farmers. Funny thing … how funding is unavailable for some lesser-sized farms that just happen to be located next to (or near) Farm Credit financed, mega-dairies that covet their neighbors’ farmland (so the mega-dairies can add acres so they may milk more cows). In New York State, mega-dairy operators can add cows and acres at will, turning to the Empire State Development for million dollar grants (not loans, but grants) to help bankroll these expansions. Past and present, some farmers sitting on Farm Credit boards seem to have the inside track on grabbing neighboring farms when those farms become available. Basically, what New York’s dairy industry has devolved to is an insiders’ game for Cornell-educated, mega-dairy operators and their college-buddy insiders in finance and government. Many new dairy Limited Liability Corporations set up seem to qualify for new state grants … while small and medium producers lose their milk markets.

DFA deducts bleeding NY producers’ incomes … State and federal antitrust officials have snoozed as DFA has devastated competing marketers of farm milk in New York. First, DFA (and its subsidiary, Dairy Marketing Services, LLC – DMS) locked in control over a high percentage of access to fluid milk plants in the Northeast. Subsequently, “independent” dairy farmers were forced to sell their milk through DMS, and later, forced to join DFA or find other (nonexistent) markets. DFA settled one Northeast antitrust lawsuit for $50 million – peanuts on the dollar for the marketing costs that DFA extracted from Northeast producers, both members and non-members. Class members of the DFA Northeast antitrust settlement are waiting and waiting and waiting for their meager settlement checks (to average about $4,000 each).

“Or else” – DFA’s procurement tool … Post-settlement, DFA’s anti-competitive ravages have worsened. DFA’s recruitment strategy is based on the “Or Else” threat, including: •Dictating that some affiliated, smaller marketing co-ops in late 2016 that their directors had to agree to any marketing assessments dictated by DFA/DMS … or else lose their markets. •Notifying about 900 “independent” producers in the Northeast in early 2017 that they had to either join DFA later that year … or else lose their markets. • Dictating that several smaller co-ops marketing their milk in affiliation with DMS/DFA (such as the South New Berlin Co-op) had to disband and have the members join DFA … or else lose their markets. Get the picture???

…… to read the rest of this article contact the Milkweed for a PDF……..


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Join Me in Helping Dairy Farmers

June 22, 2018

Dear Reader,
When the Pennysaver reached out and asked about ideas for an article for Dairy Appreciation Month focusing on the struggles our farmers are facing and possibly how they and the public can help, it just clicked with me, it is time to ask for, collect, and distribute house hold ‘grocery store’ donations to our struggling friends. Why? Because due to this crisis, their ‘paycheck’ is no longer enough to pay the farm operation bills let alone the mortgage, the electric, the natural gas, the phone, the internet, and the T.V. bills or the gas needed to go to the store and they don’t have any cash left over for that trip to the grocery store.

If you want to help, please consider purchasing some of these non-perishable items listed below on your next shopping trip… and the one after that… and the one after that….

If you would, please include a ‘Dear Farmer’ card with your donation. On the front of it please write “From Zipcode xxxxx.” That will help me figure out which farms are closest to you. Inside write your contact information and a personal note – these really do help! I know every single dairy mom, dad and kid out there is going to want to write you back and say THANK YOU!

Fundraiser for Tioga County Farmers – July 4, 2018 update.

On Saturday June 23 from 10 am to 5 pm a drop off of donations was held at the empty dairy barn with the For Sale sign posted in the front yard on Spencer Road in Mansfield, PA. The turnout was great and we are so appreciative of the donations made. Thank you consumers!

Mike and Cathy Buckwalter who rent the farm and Gordon Wood who owns the farm, graciously agreed to let me use the barn as a drop off point for donations. The Buckwalter’s are just one of several farms in the county who have stopped milking. Many more are on the verge of going out, filing bankruptcy and sadly some are under public foreclosure proceedings and the state public tax auction signs have been posted. Mike and I spent the day talking about past, present and future dairies in the county while our local dairy promotion princes and princesses waved to passerbys and held up signs saying Farmers We Are Proud of You.

When we tallied up who is still shipping milk in our county the numbers are dwindling rapidly. My tally to date for Tioga County is under 70. What that means is that 20, 30, 40 other farms have ceased operations due to this ‘industry comes first’ it’s just business hardship. But it is much more than that. That means 160, 240, 320 workers are out of work and under extreme emotional distress at the month after month indifference to their financial situation.

Yes workers.

A family dairy utilizes the entire family unit to produce the milk that pays the taxes, pays the utilities, pays the living essentials for multiple households. Those ‘workers’ are part of that family unit. Without the passion and pride in owning a dairy operation who would want to work such a hard life? Why would anyone who does not have a stake in the right to farm want such a life?

School taxes just arrived. They are higher. Who is the backbone of our school system but the farming family. We can raise taxes to pay for a new school, to cover guaranteed by law teacher salaries and pensions and benefits but we can’t create a tax or invest state funds to modernize and stabilize the most important industry in our state – the dairy farm family operation. The people who have the knowledge skill and ability to feed and cloth us at the worst of times. But during the best of times for the ‘rest of us’ they are abandoned in their time of need?

Think on that the next time you hear that the industry can’t survive without migrant labor or without one unbroken line of integration. The vertical integration of the industry has forced out American workers over the insanity of vanity driven greed. There is no competition when the farmer is the employee of the dealer-processor-retailer and has no say in his compensation and no union to represent him. But as the property owner his taxes can and do go up and he must either pay them or lose his and his families life investment to another backed by the very industry that refused to pay him enough to remain solvent. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I am talking about the vertical integration of our food supply straight up the ladder through the bankers and investors to the Chicago Board of Trade and Wall street. The price of milk starts there and our elected officials have done nothing to address the monopoly that controls our entire food system. Millions of investors making billions off the pennies on the dollar taken from the paycheck of these families enslaved to the market who have now lost their jobs and are losing their homes – and many feel that was the whole point as someone else wants their land. Welcome to the new America. The more dairy you consume, the richer they have continued to get while the crack in the foundation of our country as a democracy widens to a chasm.

This fundraiser threw a line of hope to those struggling to see past the doom. I saw it in their eyes when I stopped by their farm. Knowing people care is food for the soul and why I advocate for them. Please consider doing the same and stopping at a farm and just say hello. Let them know who you are and that you care and listen to what they have to share. You can make a difference for them by speaking out on their behalf.

I want to thank each and everyone of you who donated household cleaning supplies, tires and gift certificates in this fund drive. I am in the process of delivering them throughout the county to producers who need the emotional lift in spirit of knowing the consumer and their neighbor cares. I don’t have enough for everyone so please continue donating and I will make sure your contribution goes to a dairy producer in need.

If you want to make a check donation to a specific farm or to help me with the delivery expenses or any third party expense farmer households have like car tires, car inspection, oil change, washing machine repair, computer repair, hair stylist, dentist, eye doctor visit, masseuse – chiropractor, swimming pool/park tickets I will accept checks and gift certificate made out in their name.

Remember, this crisis is not limited to our county. Please contact me if you can host a similar event.
Melissa Bravo / 814-574-4067 / Facebook /

Melissa Bravo, Certified Crop Advisor,
Meadow Lake Farm Consulting Services / Tioga County, PA/ Lawrenceville PA 16929

Laundry Room *
Fabric Softener
Stain Remover
Fly catchers
Clothes basket*
A sturdy clothesbasket so I can pack the items for delivery

Dish Soap
Dishwasher soap
Floor cleaner
Oven Cleaner
Window Cleaner
Paper towels

Living Room
Carpet cleaner
Carpet shampoo
Furniture polish
Power outage candles
Newspaper subscription

Bed Room
Pillow cases
Window fan
Black garbage bags
King sheets

Bath Room
Toilet Paper
Toilet bowl cleaner

Flea Products
Skunk Cleaner
Vet Gift Certificate
Groomer Certificate

Lawn care and flower care service **
Lawn care and flowerbed services are a great volunteer offer or can be pre-paid through a local lawn care company. Gas is so expensive right now and farmers have big yards!

Auto store certificate
Check for gasoline
Check for tires***
Mechanic shop certificate
Car maintenance is a difficult expense for farmers right now. I will add about 10,000 miles to my car to deliver donations to all remaining producers in the county.

T.V. Bill
Internet Bill
Land Line Bill
Cell Phone Bill
Swimming Pool Outing
Amusement Park Outing
Fair and Festival Tickets
If you want to pay their bill and give them a note that you did or that you bought season tickets for them in their name – go for it!

Non melting Barn Snacks
Chocolate syrup (LOTS)
Energy Bars
Ice cream stand gift certificate