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.



  1. I’m sick of the subsidies also; ethanol more than anything else, because it’s just such a con game. And we can get by without milk. The milk here isn’t even milk; I don’t know what the fuck it is. You don’t have to keep it in the fridge and it stays good for like 5 years. It took some getting used to but it goes down just fine with a PB&J now.

    • Whatever it is you have over there, they like to spray all over the land or sidewalks or government buildings as some sort of weird protest again low prices.

      I’m not sure how dumping your own product fixes things. I’m sure they’ll just import more cheap New England milk to make up the difference, thus fucking two farmers with one double-headed tariff.


  2. Nice work, CLT, and I agree.

    Everyone is suffering right now. And just because a person works in Oil and Gas or Construction as opposed to the Farming Industry, it doesn’t make their inability to support their families (thanks to lay-offs) any less of an issue.

    I did find it somewhat touching, though, when I clicked on the AP article you linked, and saw what was written under the picture of the cow on the right hand side.

    “A dairy cow watches from the barn as Massachusetts Agriculture Commissioner Scott Soares speaks in Richmond, Vt., Monday, Sept. 14, 2009. Three New England states are urging consumers to chip in and help save the region’s dairy farms, which are struggling with record-low prices being paid for their milk….”

    And here I thought the cows wouldn’t give a shit, considering they never get anything out of the deal anyway…

    ps. Remind me not to stop-by immediately after perusing the Celebrity gossip sites anymore…for some reason I always leave feeling somewhat “one-dimensional”

    It’s true,

    A dairy cow watches from the barn as Massachusetts Agriculture Commissioner Scott Soares speaks in Richmond, Vt., Monday, Sept. 14, 2009. Three New England states are urging consumers to chip in and help save the region’s dairy farms, which are struggling with record-low prices being paid for their milk. Agriculture officials from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts gathered Monday at a dairy farm in Richmond to launch the “Keep Local Farms” program.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

    • Thanks, bschooled.

      That is a picturesque moment you refer to twice. We have some of the most politically-involved livestock in the world right here in the US. No doubt this new interest was spurred on by our fantastically good-looking new president with the youthful vigor of a philandering JFK.

      I have duly disregarded the repeated last paragraph.

  3. ps. please disregard the last paragraph…I obviously need to work on my cut and paste skills.

    • I have duly disregarded the repeated last paragraph.

      If you have already received my warm disregards, please disregard immediately.

  4. American farming is a truly Byzantine scam. Having been a small time farmer back in the day, I can say that farming is pretty much run like this:

    Buy stuff at retail
    Sell way below wholesale
    Have Uncle Sam send the loans, the subsidies and demand the gov. send direct cash payouts.

    And you thought the Bush/Obama bailouts were something new?

    • Welcome back, zeus.

      No, I’m aware the subsidy/tariff/loans have most of their roots all the way back in the Great Depression. It seems that once the nation was not so greatly depressed that they could have been rolled back or removed.

      It’s a two-way scam. There are those who take advantage of it without needing to actually farm anything. And the politicians will keep it alive because that’s a whole lot of votes.

      Europe is even more fucked up, but I would imagine a unified government really only makes everyone certain which direction the shit is rolling downhill from.

      Ah… to be Swiss and neutral.

      Great to see you again, zeus.

  5. But.. I need the milk. I have to have the milk. What else will I dunk my cookies in? Tea? Water? Soda?
    I don’t think so.. Outta my way. I gotta go buy a cow so I can guarantee my milk supply when the rest of you are dunking your cookies in beer.

    • Us beer-dunkers will appreciate your cow purchase, if for no other reason that the modern American dairy cow seems to be very politically motivated.

      Since we are less than motivated, politically or otherwise, we can just write down our votes, slap it on the ass and send it to the nearest voting booth.

      Great to see you, Claire. Thanks for the panicky comment.


  6. Is it just me or is this “crying over spilled milk”?
    (I love you Farmer Brown!)
    Why are all protest signs made by third graders? Nice use of colors. Red can only mean death, Hell or communism and none of those are fair.

    • Third graders are the only ones willing to do that sort of thing with their free time. And the free time to do it. These farmers work day and night. They can’t be expected to make their own signs!

      As for the communism, it’s all very roundabout. First you get the government, then you get the tariffs, then you get the women, who would rather be reading “The Little Red Book” than actually getting some hot dairy farmer action.

  7. Hot dairy farmer action… oh yeah!

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