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Milk prices down, dairymen are struggling

National Farmers Union delegates are calling on Congress to sustain family dairy farmers through the current difficult economic times. The delegates adopted a special order of business regarding the matter earlier this month, citing what they call the unprecedented volatility of dairy market prices.

"Dairy producers in this country are facing unprecedented obstacles to economic success," said National Farmers Union President Tom Buis. "(We have) long been calling for dairy policies that protect producers during economically difficult times. Today's dairy crisis provides an opportunity (for) policy makers to establish policies that will not only reverse today's dairy crisis, but ensure that it's not repeated in the future."

Buis said his organization outlined specific provisions that dairy policy should include in order to alleviate the burden of the economic downturn, including the immediate release of Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) payments. Other provisions include making low interest and emergency loans available, as well as the establishment of a dairy price support system that accounts for the total cost of production.

Granger dairy farmer Bob Golob said, "Right now we're in a place we've never been before money-wise. I've been dairying all of my life-I'm 77 and I've never seen it quite this bad."

Golob said that the MILC funding will only go so far. For a large dairy operation, it would only be enough to sustain the farmer for a limited amount of time. But for a small operation, it could sustain the farmer for months.

"If we milk 1,000 cows, it covers us for about a month and a half. But it could be a boon to a small operator."

He added, "Sometimes we get criticized for taking money from the government, but ultimately it saves consumers money."

In these tough economic times, Golob said he thinks the government has a place. "We want to keep good nutrition food support for the consumers."

Not everyone agrees. Bill Wavrin of Sunny Dene Ranch said, "I don't think it's realistic that (the government can or should protect us from the risks that we take (in this business)." Agriculture, he said, is cyclical.

"These are very tough times and not all of us are going to survive."

Grandview dairy farmer Jacob Veldhuis has a simple approach as to what he'd like to see the government do at this point.

Veldhuis said he just wants milk prices to go up, feed prices to stabilize and for gas to remain low in cost.

Milk prices right now, he said, are "way down, way down."

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