Perhaps no one represented the American work ethic more than the dairy farmer. Early morning hours and hard physical labor, often conducted in solitude while ankle deep in muck. Families working together to get the job done. They have long proudly supplied a demand for their community, and like most farmers, are clearly not in it for the money.
Today however, the American dairy farmer also represents the frustration and economic hardship evident across our nation. Increasing volatility in the price of milk paid to farmers, higher feed costs, corporate consolidation in the supply chain, organic milk farms scaling up, and questionable government policies all have farmers shedding a few tears. The life is so unappealing that the number of American families remaining in milk farming has plummeted from roughly 165,000 20 years ago, to less than 50,000 today. Read more
When Yeo Valley Organic in the UK set to make an ad about their dairy products, they wanted to inspire people to pronounce the name correctly (it’s pronounced “yo”) and to get people talking about the brand. Of course, this led them to rapping about “cows, tractors and wax jackets” in a much talked about two minute music video. Read more
Appropriately, the evening began with a picnic featuring local cheese and ended with an ice cream social under a yellow moon. In between, dairy farmers, consumer advocates, professors, labor union representatives, faith communities, antihunger advocates, an aspiring cheesemaker, and even a Certified Public Accountant spoke out forcefully about the widespread injustices in the dairy industry.
The main event was a Dairy Town Hall Forum in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by Family Farm Defenders, National Family Farm Coalition, and Food and Water Watch, and timed to coincide with Friday’s Department of Justice and USDA workshop examining corporate concentration in the dairy industry. The workshop today is part of the ongoing investigation (which I reported on here) by the two departments to determine whether food and agriculture companies have become too concentrated. Read more
The assault on rural America continues unabated. For the past six months dairy farmers across the country have suffered a historic drop in milk prices while operating costs remain high. Since December 2008, the price that farmers are paid for the milk they produce has plunged over 50 percent, the largest single drop since the Great Depression.
While organic dairy farmers have faced a decrease in overall sales due to the recent world financial meltdown and tight budgets on the home front as a result, the current drop in milk prices is impacting mainly conventional and small to mid-size family dairy farmers — the worst crisis most dairy farmers have faced in their entire careers.
Without immediate action from President Obama, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of Congress, this current crisis could be the launching point for the final liquidation of the independent family farmer. Read more
In a victory for local dairy farmers and consumers, Gov. Sebelius, President Obama’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, vetoed a controversial bill last Thursday that would have limited rbGH labeling on dairy products in that state. The bill, HB 2121, faced massive opposition from dairy, consumer, health, animal welfare and environmental organizations across the country; nearly 30 of which wrote a letter to Sebelius, urging her to veto HB 2121. Read more
On the heels of Yoplait’s announcement that they’re going rbGH-free, Dannon is now saying that its entire product range in the U.S. will be free of the much criticized dairy cow artificial growth hormone by the end of this year. As reported here, Dannon, like Yoplait, is citing consumer demand, rather than health concerns, for this change in policy. Read more
Yoplait yogurt, the 19th largest dairy processor in the country, announced today that by August of this year, all Yoplait branded products will be made with milk that is 100 percent farmer certified to come from cows not treated with rbGH (or recombinant bovine growth hormone) an artificial hormone also known as rbST (recombinant bovine somatotropin). Read more
If I were making a list of the pioneers of the sustainable food movement in Northern California, Straus Family Creamery would be one of the first names I would add. For decades, the family dairy farm has been trying new approaches to reduce the environmental impact of their farm while also improving the quality of the product. Read more