California Farmers Union Leader: Emergency Price-Relief for Dairymen Needed To Save U.S. Milk Supply
October 17, 2012 • 8:20AM

On Thursday, dairymen from across California will rally in the capital, Sacramento, demanding that Gov. Gerry Brown (D) implement emergency milk-pricing relief for farmers, or mass shutdown of dairy herds will take place. California accounts for over 20 percent of U.S. milk production, which is now in jeopardy. On Oct. 9, the Vice President of the California Farmers Union (CFU), George R. Davis, described the situation to EIR, which interview will appear this week in EIRonLine (Oct. 19 issue). Below are some of the points stressed by Davis. The CFU has more than 1,400 farmer, rancher, and fishermen members; it is part of the National Farmers Union, which has 250,000 members.

"Wells Fargo Bank, a primary funder out here, for dairies, says that within 60 days, about 25-30% of our dairies will be out of business...

"To give you a real snapshot of what the economics is, if you look at dairy prices for the last 60 years, up until 1970, the price that the producer — the dairyman — got, pretty much tracked with what the consumer was paying. You know, one would go up, and the other would go up. And one would fall a little bit, and the other would fall. That's how supply and demand is supposed to work.

"Starting in 1970, the pricing of milk was changed — the way the price was set. And right now, our farmers are receiving the same price they were in 1970. And this is in real dollars, not dollars adjusted for inflation. They are receiving the same amount of money that they were in 1970...

"The immediate thing that is precipitating this crisis, is the price of feed, corn-based feed, because of the drought. And the increased utilization of corn for ethanol — that has been a factor in it.

"But in the long term, it has been the price-setting mechanism, that has been grossly unfair, and totally balanced toward the monopolies....

"You're seeing this tremendous consolidation within the industry. It's the same thing that happened to pork and poultry, where you have only a few processors, and they're vertically integrated, and they control the whole thing....

[There is a protest rally Oct. 18] "The California Dairy Campaign [affiliated with the CFU] is organizing its members to get a little more vocal. You know, traditionally farmers have been just taking what the government has to offer, and now they're getting activated. It's really been something to get them to this point, where they are ready to go out on the streets and raise a little hell. And it's about time....

"I think this issue affects consumers, it affects the price of their milk, it affects the quality of their milk, it affects the quality of the environment... It really means a lot to this country. If you look at the military, 40% of those serving in the military come from farm backgrounds. These people believe in America. They want to make it work. They've been putting their shoulders to the wheel, and working all their lives. There are no finer people. And that's really where our best future is, to support them, and to support an honest and just society."