June is traditionally celebrated as “Dairy Month,” but there is very little to celebrate in the dairy industry at the moment, with the fourth consecutive year of low farm milk prices and new export tariffs announced by President Trump this week that are crippling an already struggling industry.
On Wednesday, the Board of Directors of Agri-Mark, Inc., one of the largest dairy farmer co-operatives in New England and New York State, voted unanimously to send a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking him to use his authority to set minimum wholesale price floors for butter at $2.30 per pound, cheddar cheese at $1.63 per pound; and nonfat dry milk at $.81 per pound.
These prices are lower than price highs already reached in June, so they should not affect consumers. However, taking such action will help stabilize markets for dairy farmers, many of whom have exited the industry in 2018. As part of the program, USDA must purchase any dairy products offered to the government at those prices.
“After more than three years of extremely low income, farm milk prices were finally rising earlier this month with strong cheese, butter and nonfat dry milk market prices. When tariffs were announced, prices collapsed overnight,“ says Neal Rea, a dairy farmer from Cambridge, New York, who serves as Chairman of the Board of Agri-Mark.
Agri-Mark economist Robert Wellington, an expert in dairy markets, says the U.S. dairy industry recently has been exporting about 18 percent of its national production overseas in storable commodities like nonfat dry milk, whey proteins, butter and cheese. Wellington says that any disruptions in that export pipeline will flood the U.S. market and force farm prices down even further.
“Mexico is the largest buyer of U.S. dairy products, and both China and Canada are in the top five. Dairy farmers have worked hard to grow export markets and be a steady supplier of top- quality dairy products to the world. Dairy farms support our rural economies and USDA needs to take action now, before more of these families go out of business. Dairy farm families, their neighbors and all of rural America are suffering,” says Wellington.
Agri-Mark, the premier dairy co-operative in the Northeast, markets more than 336 million gallons of farm fresh milk each year for 1,000 dairy farm families in New England and New York. The cooperative is headquartered in Andover, Mass., has been marketing milk for dairy farmers since 1913, and actively represents their legislative interests in the Northeast and in Washington, D.C.
Agri-Mark farmers own the award-winning Cabot brand of Vermont Cheddar, butter and other dairy products in addition to the McCadam brand of New York Cheddar, Pepper Jack and other cheeses. Agri-Mark has also invested in operations to manufacture and market valuable whey proteins globally while also marketing fresh fluid milk from its local farm families to the region's largest dairy processors. For more information about Agri-Mark, visit our web site at www.agrimark.coop.