TUNKHANNOCK TWP. – Local dairy farmers spoke up against unfair milk pricing at a Progressive Agriculture Organization press conference Thursday at Perkin’s Restaurant & Bakery.
A recent drop in milk prices as determined by the Pennsylvania Milk Market Board is setting the stage for a very lean and financial troubled 2016 for small dairy farmers.
Milk prices dropped 25 cents as of Feb. 1, a loss absorbed by local farms whose budgets are nearing the breaking point, said Arden Tewksbury, the manager with Pro-Arg. The price of milk is expected to drop 40 percent in 2016, he said.
“What would happen if salaries were cut by 40 percent across the country?” Tewksbury asked the group of nearly 30 dairy farmers and county commissioners.
The group replied, “There would be a revolt.”
Pro-Ag is a national group of farmers lobbying for a fair marketing of milk. The group has a local chapter based in Meshoppen.
Tewksbury provided data showing the cost of operating a dairy farm exceeds what the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board established as a minimum price per gallon.
Local dairy farmers will be paid $15.50 per hundredweight, or 100 pounds, of produced milk. The national cost of milk production is $23.42 per hundredweight. This has created a loss of $7.92 for every 100 pounds of milk processed, creating a large deficit for dairy farmers.
In 2015, dairy farmers were paid $17.14 per hundredweight and the cost of production averaged $23.42. In 2014, farmers were paid $24.28 per hundredweight and the production cost was $24.90.
Tioga County Dairy Farmer Brenda Cochran said her farm’s losses parallel Tewksbury’s information.
Cochran’s farm, called Pennsylvester, has 200 dairy cows that produce an average of “20,000 pounds” of milk annually, she said.
Cochran and Pro-Ag are asking local farmers to call local and state representatives about the “unfair pricing formula” that benefits large dairy farms and is pushing family farms out.
Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan A. Fritz said he will carry the farmers pricing issues to the state legislature to raise awareness of struggling farms.
“We had about 660 farms in the county,” Fritz said. “Now we have about 62 farms. We are losing our heritage and way of life.”
It should be considered as a matter of national security, Fritz said.
“Who wants to drink reconstituted milk from foreign countries?” he asked. “That would be scary.”
State Rep. Karen Boback and Pat Rogan, a representative from Congressman Louis Barletta’s office, were both in attendance.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.