Aug. 15 2017 08:45 AM

No room for new milk in some locales.

“We need more farmers, not fewer.”

That was one of the comments made two weeks ago at the Farm Bill Listening Session held by the United States House Agriculture Committee at Farm Fest in Morgan, Minn.

I’ve been pondering that statement ever since.

I couldn’t agree more with wanting more dairy farmers. Each dairy farm in our area contributes to our strong dairy infrastructure . . . and also to the strong sense of camaraderie and community.

The sad reality, though, is that someone who wanted to start his or her own dairy farm today . . . the way my husband and I did 10 years ago . . . could face one nearly insurmountable hurdle — market access.

In some locales, there is no room for new milk.

Milk processors here in central Minnesota, both cooperative- and privately-owned, are operating at full or near-full capacity. Most are not taking on new patrons; others are very reluctant to do so.

It seems the only way a beginning dairy farmer can secure market access is by obtaining it from a dairy farmer exiting the market . . . and even that strategy isn’t a guarantee.

Perhaps this is extra troubling for me because of my heritage. My father, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather all struck out on their own, building their own dairy farms from scratch through the acquisition of land, credit, and dairy cows.

I personally understand that access to land and credit can be challenges in our current environment, but I never expected market access to become such an obstacle.

I guess I should count my lucky stars that we got a patron number when we did.

Is market access an issue in your area?

The author is a dairy farmer and writer from central Minnesota. She farms with her husband, Glen, and their three children. Sadie grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agricultural communications and marketing. She also blogs at Dairy Good Life.