National Farmers Organization says the country needs a new policy to protect small dairy farms, struggling with income nearly one-half of what it was five years ago. The organization recommends a special program targeted to smaller-sized dairies, while all dairymen would operate under one federal order marketing system.
“American milk drinkers and dairy product fans may not realize there has been a shocking decline in the number of smaller dairy farms the past five years, while very large dairies are growing,” said National Farmers Milk Sales Director Dick Bylsma. During that five-year period, the industry lost 35 percent of dairies milking fewer than 200 cows. “This loss goes beyond individual farms, though; studies indicate dairy farms deliver much-needed dollars to rural economies, enhance food security and better protect the environment than larger farms do.”
National Farmers recommends a program that establishes a national Federal Milk Marketing Order with a $4.00 per hundredweight price adjustor for up to one million pounds of monthly production for every dairy farm in the country. “My previous experience as an auditor for the Federal Milk Market Order system tells me that the same operations that lead to orderly marketing among dairy product classes can also be used to stabilize opportunities for dairy farmers,” Bylsma said.
USDA data show operating costs are higher for smaller farms than for very large dairies. Recognizing those cost differences is key to any policy that provides opportunities for dairy farms of all sizes.
The National Farmers approach delivers advantages to all farmers. “There are no quotas,” says Bylsma. Every farm, large and small, is free to operate as they see fit in response to price signals sent by the program. As an added bonus, the program does not increase costs for consumers or taxpayers.
For the program to work properly, one national milk marketing order in which all dairy farmers would be required to participate, would be established. Currently, the Federal Milk Marketing Order system does not cover all areas of the United States. The federal milk marketing orders have been in place since the 1930s and provide orderly milk marketing, equity in price bargaining and ensure an adequate supply of high-quality milk.
De-pooling would no longer be allowed. “These changes to the FMMO system will bring fairness and more orderly marketing in many ways,” says Bylsma. “The most important, by far, is the way leveling the production-cost playing field will preserve opportunities for one of our greatest national treasures—the smaller dairy farm.”
In the last five decades, America has lost 94 percent of its smaller dairy farms, falling from 670,000 dairy farms in 1970 to fewer than 40,000 in 2019.