“Everything that’s good for dairy farmers, they do away with” — Gerald Carlin, farmer, on the current Congress
Yesterday I attended a dairy farm family crisis hearing organized by farmers who are experiencing a humanitarian crisis. More than anything else, they wanted politicians to listen to them. This wasn’t typical lobbying or trying to curry favorable treatment for one interest group over another; these are people whose work is the lifeblood of the economy in PA-12, and who are facing problems that are literally life or death. Ninety percent of dairy farms have been stopped dairy operations in the past 50 years. According to the CDC, dairy farmers have the highest suicide rate of any occupation.
The event was organized by Farm Women United, and included talks on co-ops, the milk pricing formula, free trade, milk protein concentrates, and other topics. There were also opportunities for farmers to record their own testimonies to add into the record. I learned a lot about the decline in milk prices, and the increasing concentration of Pennsylvania milk production in larger and larger farms—55% of the milk in the commonwealth is produced by fewer than 10% of the farms. I also learned that county commissioners across the commonwealth have been available and responsive to farmers’ needs, but that federal officials have largely not been. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that these farmers absolutely despise the 2018 Farm Bill.
I see a broad outline of the type of legislation that I would support in Congress to help dairy farmers. It includes an emergency $20 per hundredweight floor price, combined with a sensible supply management program similar to that in the Specter-Casey Act originally introduced back in 2007.
Farm Women United sent a survey this year to every member of the House and Senate agriculture committees—66 members in all—and received no response back. This is a clear example of representatives continuing to ignore their constituents. While I am not in Congress yet, I wanted to answer the survey so you know where I stand on the issues and what I will advocate for in Congress.
1. Do you believe that the small to midsize dairy farms, that, historically, have been such an important part of vibrant American rural communities, should be preserved to guarantee that our nation’s consumers can access fresh, local milk, and dairy products? If no, please explain why not? //YES.//
2. Would you support an Emergency $20 per hundredweight (cwt.) floor price under all milk used to manufacture dairy products to stop the dairy farmers’ severe milk price losses until public federal and state hearings are conducted to determine the systemic causes and long-term remedies for low farm milk prices? If no, please explain why not? //YES.//
3. Would you support the right of dairy farmers to receive a price for their milk that allows them to cover their “Cost Of Production” (COP) even if this challenges the global “Free Trade Agreements”? If no, please explain why not? //YES.//
4. Would you support holding public hearings to investigate the effect “moo-glue protein products” derived from milk, including, but not limited to, casein, milk protein concentrates (MPC’s), “ultra-filtered milk,” etc., have on the “farm milk price discovery” process and on the price consumers are paying for milk and dairy products and to additionally determine any and all safety and nutritional impacts these “milk-derivative proteins” have on human health, including children’s? If no, please explain why not? // //YES.//
5. Would you support making “full-fat” and “whole” milk, both white and flavored, available for use in the school lunch program? If no, please explain why not? //YES.//
6. Would you support USDA national milk hearings that give dairy farmers themselves a chance to testify for a new federal pricing formula that will include farmers’ “cost of production,” like other businesses do in pricing their goods or services? If no, please explain why not? //YES.//
7. Since Congress terminated the “Dairy Product Price Support Program” (DPPSP) in the 2014 Farm Bill, do you support eliminating the roughly $2 per cwt. “make allowance” reduction in dairy farmers’ milk prices that is credited to milk manufacturers, to pay their “cost” to convert milk into dairy products? If no, please explain why not? //YES.//
8. Do you support public investigations into the Capper-Volstead dairy cooperatives that are manifesting disturbing, blatant, and rampant corruption at all levels of activity, internally and in the milk markets? If no, please explain why not? //YES.//
9. Would you be willing to challenge the “Free Trade Agreements” if that is necessary in order to ensure that American dairy farmers receive a fair price for their milk? If no, please explain why not? //YES.//