We all know the last few years have been tough on us as dairy farmers. Every dairy, in every region, is sure they have had the hardest time of anyone. Bad pricing, poor weather, labor issues, and the list goes on and on. We are all in the same boat and could not row in tandem if our lives depended on it . . . and yet our farm lives do.
We need to be searching for the common ground we can work on. The cooperatives are farmer owned; they should work for us, not us for them. If we cannot come together and set direction for our co-ops, then just a few board members or the co-op management will do what they think is best.
Let’s discuss some of the issues at hand:
- Supply management. Like it or not, it needs to be discussed. If everyone reduced their overall production shipped by a few percent but their total milk check grew substantially, life would have to be better.
- Intra-marketing agencies. All cross-country hauling needs to be minimized.
- Commingling milk. Producers from two different cooperatives can ride on the same truck.
- Quality. Should standards be further tightened?
- Over order premiums. Can’t co-ops work together to reestablish them?
- Manufacturing facilities. The Southeast region will probably have some built to keep cream from going so far after the rest is bottled. Other areas of the country must develop markets to more effectively move milk.
- New product and new markets. Co-ops could consider letting members sell small amounts of milk to niche manufacturers without making the dairy buy back their own milk from the co-op. A small manufacturer may be the one to develop a previously untapped market for a dairy product. I understand cooperatives need a known quantity every pickup, but they should allow a dairy or business to buy small amounts to develop new markets for us.
Consider your neighbors’ opinions. Mentally walk in their shoes for a moment before you speak. Don’t dismiss their ideas outright; take a bit to consider what they have to say. Give your fellow farmers the chance to change your opinion of their idea.
I think it is better to strive to get more value for the products we sell than to see who can sell it for the lowest value and survive.
Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. Their “Father and Daughter Dairy Together” column appears every other Thursday on HD Notebook. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.