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Caption: Melissa Bravo speaks of local milk being highlighted. She holds up Chocolate Gold (3.5fat 8.75 solids) California Standard Milk from Pa farms – Photo by Mike Eby.
Yesterday I drove down to Harrisburg to the PA Milk Market Board to give witness statement at the second special hearing that was called for by the Department of Agriculture http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/Petition%20for%20Hearing%20MMB.pdf.
A similar hearing was held on May 2. My testimony for both can be found on the agencies website. Or you can read the transcript of the hearing here http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/May%2016%20Transcript.pdf
The Hearing: The request from the Department of Agriculture Agency asked this separate regulatory agency unique to our state to investigate, undertake, or recommend any measures that can address current market conditions in Pennsylvania. Two hearings have been held so far. I think we need more and one in each county and a individual letter sent to each dairy farmer to attend and say on record how this crisis has impacted them.
This three person board has the power granted to them to execute the legislative intent of the 1937 law called the Milk Marketing Law to establish reasonable trade practices, systems of production control, and regulate the production, the transportation, the disposal of, the manufacturing of, the processing of, the storage of, the distribution of, the delivery of, the handling of, the bailment of, the brokerage of, the consignment and purchase and sale of milk and milk products in this Commonwealth.
Given the preamble which was written to explain the justification and need for this law in 1937 it is necessary for we the consumers and producers of dairy to understand the crisis that was taking place at that time.
You see this law has not been updated, revised or repealed since then to any extent that any of us would say has kept up with the times. What then is its purpose? Conditions have certainly changed.
Here is the link to the Year Book of Agriculture. https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/IND50000139/PDF
The following quotation comes from page one.
“PROGRESS OF FARM RECOVERY. FOUR years ago American agriculture was in the depths of de-pression. Though farm commodity prices had dropped to nearly 8o percent below the pre-war average, the prices of the goods and services that farmers usually buy were at or above the pre-war level. This disparity was a cause of widespread agriculture ruin. Farm bankruptcies were at record heights, dispossessed farmers joined the urban unemployed,and farmers still struggling could not make ends meet. There was a tremendous surplus of farm products.”
While the next sentence about scarcity for consumers no longer applies in this global commerce we have today, the rest of the situation rings true today as it did then:
“Falling prices did not help them much, because their incomes were falling too as a result of declining trade and employment. The whole economic situation was out of balance.”. (1937 Year Book of Agriculture)
That is why I advocate for agriculture. This is once again the on the ground situation in our rural areas of Pennsylvania. Our farmers are in crisis and this law like so many others was created by the legislature in response to a crisis. It is not just dairy. The dairy crisis puts pressure on the entire production system as the farmers scramble to make income any way they can without adequate resources to do so.
Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the production of milk in this Commonwealth.
Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the distribution of milk in this Commonwealth.
Clearly it was the intent of the legislature that the purpose of this law and this board is to protect the sale of milk in this Commonwealth.
I saw and heard people of this Commonwealth at this hearing plead for someone in government to help the dairy farmer who produces the milk cover their cost of production before any more are forced out due to the refusal of the market players to give a damn about the employees who work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. That income has to be enough to pay the operational costs to do business. That income has to pay enough to maintain the operation.
I must tell you though, I saw and heard the chairman of the board, an individual who has been on the board way to long, whose term expired three years ago, get very defensive to a woman who is an expert on the dairy market and the forces in play. She came to the hearing as requested to share her concerns, just like everyone else, just like I did and I like so many in attendence were shocked at the level of adversity directed at her. In fact I would go so far as to say I am sick and tired of this type of response from men in power directed at strong minded woman who have earned the expertise they bring to the discussion. http://www.mmb.pa.gov/Legal/Documents/Bunting%20Comments.pdf
Update: Read the Letter to the Editor on page 16 of this issue of Farm Shine.http://www.farmshine.net/fso/05-25-18/index.html#) to get a full sense of the appalling behavior that I witnessed at this, the first hearing I’ve ever attended.
………Everyone is trying to help on the dairy crisis marketing issue, there is no need to get so defensive.
Now, as to the real issue at hand that I want your help with:
I am seeing and hearing two view points on this issue: We need a two tiered system of regulation and payment to address the two different roads that food such as milk and beef and eggs and pork and vegetables takes in this state on its way to the market place. Family farm operations are not factories. The regulations and laws that are being promulgated as a one shoe fits all approach to corporate food production are not working. The regulations and laws that were written to protect the family farm were not designed to regulate corporate farming.
The dairy farms need you the consumer to say enough is enough we don’t want the rest of them to die off. We need you to say you want your town, your counties locally grown food to be sold in a store in your town and county so that you can purchase it and put it on your plate.
Write your individual House of Representative and your Senator and your Governor and stay in touch with our Secretary of Agriculture. Plead with these men to do something to protect the remaining farmers left in your township, your county, this state.
Or if you would like, write to me and I will share your concerns and research, investigate and report on the dairy crisis. Melissa Bravo, Agriculture Advocate. Meadow Lake Farm Consulting Services P.O. Box 447, Lawrenceville, PA 16929. 814-574-4067.