Archive for September 18th, 2009

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New England Dairy Farmers Gather to Bitch, Moan

September 18, 2009
Apparently, "fair" means propped up by the government and paid for by the consumers.

Apparently, "fair" means propped up by the government and paid for by the consumers.

New England dairy farmers are asking the public to pay more for milk.

As part of Keep Local Farms, organizers set up a Web site for people to make contributions, which will be divided among farmers, and are urging universities and other institutions to charge a little extra for dairy products in their cafeterias, with the proceeds going to farmers. The University of Vermont is the first to sign on.

As the leading source of said milk, you may be asking, “Why in the fuck would they do that?” Why, indeed. Apparently, they’re not making enough money.

Farmers are getting about $11.40 per hundred pounds of milk, down from $18.72 last year, officials said, attributing much of the change to declining exports amid the global recession. Put another way, farmers are getting 97 cents for a gallon of milk that costs $1.80 on average to produce. Some stores price milk at $5 or more per gallon.

So, step one is begging ordinary people to pay more for a product in the middle of a recession. Sound reasoning that will no doubt prove popular.

Step two? Ask for an anti-trust investigation of Dean Foods, whose merger in 2001 led to their currently position as the #1 milk supplier in the U.S.

Some possible problems with this:

1. Dean Foods purchases less than 15% of the total milk supply in the U.S. (Granted, this is according to Dean Foods. The N.E. dairy farmers allege that they control 80% of the market.)
2. Dean Foods’ supposed monopoly did nothing to prevent some record high prices in 2007 and 2008, which the dairy farmers responded to by purchasing more cattle.

It’s not as though they’re not getting any help. There has been a price support system in place since the 1930’s to ensure a minimum price. Dairy farm subsidies in the U.S. have totalled $3.6 billion since 1995. In March of 2009, Obama reinstituted some long dormant export tariffs on milk, much to the displeasure of pretty much the rest of the world.  Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders just got $350 million in dairy aid added to an aptly named “spending bill.”

So, 80 years of subsidies and tariffs can’t keep you afloat and now it’s up to the public to bail you out, either directly (charity) or stealing (taxes, tariffs, subsidies). At what point did running a business ensure you of successful employment for life? Companies close all the time. People get laid off. Expenses are trimmed. Every time the market decides to kick the shit out of your business does not mean the rest of the country needs to ride to your rescue.

Just because the word “farm” is getting thrown around does not mean that it’s instantly a more worthwhile business than anything else out there. The amount of instant pure-heartedness and quiet dignity that gets ascribed to farmers is ridiculous.

You run a business. You are not God’s chosen ones. You are not “salt of the earth.”

You have a powerful lobby and the mistaken belief that farmers are “good people” working for you. You also have tariffs, subsidies and price fixing in your corner. If you cannot find a way to profit while running a crooked game, get the fuck out. You are broke. Busted. Move along.

They bitch about the fact that they can’t break even selling their milk but that the grocery stores are selling it for an assumed incredible amount of profit.

If your problem is the disconnect between the alleged raping you’re taking and the astronomical profit the grocery stores are making, then why not take it up with the distributors and the chain stores?

You won’t because if you alienate them, you have nothing left. But good old John Q. Public, whose pockets have been reached into so often recently, can afford to take one more for the team. And why not? He’s only had to bail out car companies, banks, the country itself (through “stimulus”) and is about to be rung up for “free” health care. And that’s just in this administration.

Your argument with the grocery stores’ prices makes this argument to the public: “We know that you are already paying too much for milk, with their ‘inflated margins.’ We just want you to pay a little more.”

And what happens when prices return to a profitable level? Will you be letting those who have generously agreed to pay more (in return for nothing) that they can stop ante-ing up for your milk? Or will you decide to let it ride until they call “bullshit.”

Maybe you should just cut out the middlemen and reorganize as a non-profit that happens to have milk as a by-product.

Grow up. The rest of industry carries on and it’s the smallest farms holding it back and bitching the most. Everyone wants to root for the underdog, but you really can’t claim that term with the government willing step in and fight your battles for you.

The point of any business is to make money. You’re not a business anymore. You’re a money pit. A sinkhole. A vagrant with a “Will Bitch for Free Money” sign hanging around your neck.

You all enjoyed 2007-2008 just like every other business in a sound economy. Now that it’s a recession doesn’t mean that you should be exempt from the shit everyone else has to deal with.

-CLT

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