No farmers, no food.
Honestly, it really is that simple. Without farmers to plant the seeds, harvest the crops, feed the cattle, or milk the cows, the world would be in heap of hurt. Think about it, without the farmers who love the work they do from dawn until dusk for three hundred and sixty-five days a year, where would your food come from? The grocery store? That's completely wrong. The answer is simple, from the farm that is either family owned and operated (like the one I have had the privilege to grow up on) or a large corporate farm.
But, with the current state of the dairy industry, family owned and operated farms are becoming a thing of the past. This problem is effecting all small, family farmers whether they specialize in grain, dairy, poultry, or beef to name a few. However, most recently, small, family owned dairy farms have taken the hardest hit. Things have reached a new low and don't show signs of looking up any time soon.
In 2016, the dairy industry plummeted. A dairy farmer is paid a set amount based on how many one hundred pounds of milk they produce. For example, on average, throughout all of 2016, so far, farmers were paid approximately $12 for every one hundred pounds of milk the herd produced. (One hundred pounds is equivalent to 12.5 gallons of milk). However, since the beginning of 2016 the price of milk has continued to decline at a steady rate that shows no sign of stopping any time soon.
To really understand the severity of the situation, small, family-owned dairy farms, it is important to know that the $12 farmers are being paid for every one hundred pounds of milk produced is at an all-time record low! Furthermore, this price is barely enough money for the farmers to break even let alone make a profit.
Here's the economics of the current milk price:
1. Farmers are paid approximately $12 per 100 lbs. (This can vary slightly based on the milk company the farmer is supplying).
2. 100 lbs. of milk is close to 12.5 gallons
3. So, if paid $12 for 12.5 gallons that means each gallon is worth $0.96. (That is what the farmer is paid per gallon).
4. In the grocery store, one gallon of milk costs around $3.97.
5. From the base price a farmer is paid in comparison to the price in the grocery store there is a difference of $3.01! The farmers are not the ones who make this money, this extra profit goes to the milk company and the grocery stores. Is it really fair that the people who have no part of the production of the milk should make more than half of profit?
Now, some people will say that this isn't a huge deal, but it is. See, when the price of milk is compared to what it was in 2014, the seriousness of the situation may finally be understood.
In 2014, the price per hundred pounds of milk was around $22, and the price is the store was no where near $4 a gallon. And so, within two years time, the price of milk declined by almost 50%, and has had disastrous effects on the dairy industry.
Due to the low price of milk, many farmers have been forced to sell their family farm that they have owned for generations. Farmers can't afford to purchase the seeds, feed their cattle, or pay the milk companies to come pick up the milk. To make a bad situation even worse, the majority of U.S. farmers are over sixty years old. These hard-working men have worked in the dairy industry milking cows for their entire life. This is the only life that they have ever known. It is "udder" heartbreak, that these men who have sacrificed so much have no option but to sell their farm that has been in their family for generations. In fact, many of the farmers, whether they are young or old, who have had to sell out, feel as though they have nothing else to live for and resort to suicide as their only option.
If that isn't enough reason to make people stop and think about the current state of the dairy industry, then maybe this statistic will. In the United States in 2012, there were approximately 2.1 million farms. That number continually decreases as each year passes. Actually, every day, four farmers will sell out and leave the dairy industry. Or, because the farmers are all in their mid-to-late sixties, with no one in the younger generation there to take over the farms, small, family owned farms are going by the wayside. If this trend continues, not only will the agriculture industry cease to exist, the way people have always known it to but consumers will also feel the pinch and begin to cry over spilled milk.
It's time to really start appreciating where the food we eat comes from and the people who work tirelessly to produce it. But, most importantly, it is time to realize that the dairy industry is in trouble, farmers are in trouble, and they need the help of the public to fix the economic downturn that the dairy market has taken. Because even if you don't want to admit it, without farmers there would be no food. And, I don't know about you but I don't want to live in a world where I can't enjoy a cheeseburger, side of fries, and a chocolate milkshake.