Dairy farmers also struggling as milk prices dip

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BELOIT — Some dairy farmers are struggling to survive as milk prices approach a 10-year low.

More than 50 members of Congress including three Wisconsin representatives — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Reps. Ron Kind and Mark Pocan — signed a letter sent to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The members of Congress seek federal support for the dairy industry in the letter dated July 28.

The letter says milk prices are expected to remain depressed.

“Our dairy farmers have been hit extremely hard by low farm milk prices that have resulted in sharply reduced incomes, which is placing our nation’s dairy industry in an extremely vulnerable position,” the letter reads.

It also says milk prices have dropped 40 percent since 2014, and says that some of the reasons behind the drop include increased U.S. production and increased milk production in other countries.

John Gerbitz, who is the Rock County Farm Bureau vice president and a dairy farm consultant with East Central/Select Sires, said he agrees depressed prices are the result of increased production.

“It’s in the individual’s interest to expand their herd, but it’s bad for an industry,” he said.

Also, it’s become easier to increase herd size to increase production, Gerbitz said.

“It’s become easier to increase herd size because of better cow care, better cow comfort and also new technologies,” he said.

Gerbitz works with about 100 farmers in Wisconsin, 20 of whom he works closely with and have 500 to 1,500 cows. He said everyone’s operating costs are exceeding their income.

One way in which farmers can manage the depressed market is by examining the efficiency of their operations, such as when cows get pregnant, Gerbitz said.

Gerbitz also said high milk prices in 2012 and 2013 are helping farmers through current low prices.

Although many farmers are struggling, Gerbitz said he doesn’t want to see the government get involved. He said he wants to see the industry regulate and control production on its own.

“I feel that the best answers will come from the industry,” Gerbitz said.

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