Government representatives from New York State Senator James L. Seward (R, C, IP), 51st Senate District, and U.S. House of Representatives Richard Hanna (R), 22nd Congressional District of New York, attended a press conference at Fitch’s Dairy in West Winfield on June 27, to hear the passionate plea of dairy farmers for support of the Spector-Casey Bill to help lift dairy farmers out of the pit they are in.
“There’s a huge dairy issue in this country,” stressed dairy farmer Robin Fitch. “This is country-wide; not just New York State. This isn’t just the east coast or the west coast. This is our whole country that is in jeopardy at this time! This is a nation-wide problem!”
Fitch, one of the farmers that testified to the devastating conditions on dairy farms, said their farm has now lost nearly 45 percent of their income.
“How would you like to go to work tomorrow,” she asked, addressing the government representatives, “and have to do the same job, and your boss says, ‘Well I’m sorry, you’re doing a great job, but you’re taking a 45 percent pay cut.’”
Dairy farmers are expected to pay all of their same bills on 45 percent less income. Equipment, needing repairs, sits idle. Animals need to be fed and vetted, but where is the money coming from?
Repair bills are maxed out. Farmers are begging for animal feed, but then can’t make payments.
Dairy farmers are a huge part of local economies and when dairies go under, farm suppliers and farm equipment dealers also go under. The ripple effect is tremendous. Fitch says their “small farm” generally puts over $200,000 into the local economy each year.
Fitch reported equipment industries hear dairy farmers saying the same thing all across the country. “In 10 years there’s not going to be enough food in this country! The Spector-Casey Bill is the only thing that is out there that is going to save us.”
Farmers commented that government officials keep passing the buck, saying they can’t do anything to get the Spector-Casey Bill sponsored and passed. “You can do that!” said Fitch. “We elected and re-elected you into your offices to do this! Do what’s right for the people! Make sure they have a safe food supply — right from our country!”
Fitch reported that government representatives do not respond; e-mails are not answered, phone calls are ignored. “We need our congressmen and senators to give us somebody to talk to! Hear our voices! Hear our complaints — and our strategies of what we have to fix this situation! We know what’s going to fix it. Come and talk to the farmers. Sit at their kitchen tables. Send the representatives from your office to hear what’s actually going on, on the farm.”
Fitch commented that New York State is setting up programs to encourage new farmers to come into the state, while farmers already established are being beaten. “We have a 25-year old son that wants to continue with this farm, what are they offering him?”
Gretchen Maine, of Waterville, NY, recently sold off the cows at the farm she and her husband farmed. She commented where 18 dairy farms had stood in her area, now only two remain.
Maine said elected officials say they don’t hear from farmers about the low milk price problem. “I know exactly why they don’t hear from farmers. It’s time consuming. It’s frustrating because phone lines are always busy. It’s maddening because when you finally do get through they don’t have a clue about anything agriculture. Everyone is too far removed from the farm. I was told by Senator Schumer’s office in Syracuse, that there are no Ag people in any of his offices! Isn’t New York an agricultural state?”
Dave Fitch says another reason farmers don’t reach out to their elected officials is because of the pressure from milk companies. Farmers are afraid of consequences.
Jonathan Haar of Haarvest Farm is involved with a lawsuit against DFA, as class representatives in the northeast dairy litigation. He spoke to attendees about the milk volume crisis. “I would argue that the surplus is caused as much or more, by a weak dollar and a huge influx of foreign milk.”
However Haar said according to the past year’s corporate profit report, the dairy companies profited around 40 plus million dollars. “The federal government is listening to the wrong people; that is why dairy farmers are constantly being put out of business.”
Several farmers grumbled that the Department of Justice needs to do an investigation into the dairy business to find out why dairy farmers have been cut so much, while milk companies are raking in record profits — and consumers are still paying the same prices at the store.
Progressive Agriculture Organization manager Arden Tewksbury commented on the Spector-Casey Bill. “The basic fundamentals of the bill is, it prices milk on the dairy farmers’ cost of production — and that’s the national average, because dairy products now are priced nationally in the federal order.”
Dairy farmers and dairy industry supporters should contact Tewksbury at 570-833-5776 or 570-313-7209 for more information on how to move the Spector-Casey Bill along.
Dave Fitch says he doesn’t think his farm can hold on another year if things don’t change right away.