A typical dairy farmer earns about 91 cents when a customer purchases a $2.99 gallon of milk at the grocery, with more than 65 percent of that price going to middlemen. While superficially this may seem like an acceptable return, remember that’s 91 cents gross, not net, and has to be used to cover the farmer’s expenses. The reality of dairy farming has resulted in costs that outweigh the revenue.
“Simply put, the cost of producing milk is more than we receive when we sell it. Remember, we are Ohio’s dairy farmers rather than a huge company whose only responsibility is to make money for Wall Street,” Crossgrove said.
Scioto County’s dairy industry infuses about $700,000 every year in receipts and revenue into the local economy, according to the 2007 Ohio Department of Agriculture Annual Report. According to the Farmer’s Union there are 3,500 dairy producers in Ohio, with many losing $100-$200 per dairy cow per month.
While the county numbers may seem small, they represent one facet of an important business in our local communities: agriculture. Given the description provided by the Ohio Farmers Union of the challenging business environment for dairy farmers, one has to wonder how long it may be before other agri-industry segments will be affected with similar situations.
Market prices for dairy products, strangely enough, are hovering near 1970 levels, according to Crossgrove, and farmers are facing “unprecedented economic disaster.” This could unfold through the following events: dairy farmers locally and nationwide go out of business; supplies will drop, leading to higher demand for the product; the result will draw imports from overseas, and as we’ve seen in the last couple of years, some lower health standards and reduced food safety requirements can lead to disaster, especially for the young and immuno-compromised.
It’s bad enough that we can’t walk into a grocery now without seeing that our apple juice is produced in Chile, Brazil or, believe it or not, China, when we have groves of apple trees all over our own country that employ our own citizens, feed our own people and contribute to our own economy.
Crossgrove made a point in which we strongly agree: “I want my grandchildren’s ice cream cone and macaroni-and-cheese to come from cows I see grazing on family farms during my drive home from work; not from some foreign country.”
We join the Ohio Farmers Union in encouraging citizens to communicate with our U.S. senators and congressmen to discuss incentives to encourage more private enterprise in the dairy sector and, as Crossgrove put it, “keep our flow of milk coming from the U.S.”