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