Jan. 27 2012 07:02 AM

Class III average was $18.37 per hundredweight

Hip, hip hooray! Now let's do it again.

Class III producer milk prices set an all-time record average of $18.37 per hundredweight in 2011. The old record was $18.04, set in 2007.

Unfortunately, record milk prices coincided with record feed prices. Talk about a "glass half-full versus half-empty" situation. Even though feed took the fun out of $18 milk, thank goodness the two price spikes happened together. Imagine the disaster if they hadn't.

Monthly prices in March, July and August were all-time records for those months. July and August were the only times Class III has ever hit $21, and August was the highest single-monthly price in Class III history.

A new record is nice, but let's be frank: Never has so much amounted to so little for so many. And in order for producers to stay profitable and continue recovering from 2009, how soon does a new record need to be set?

Eighteen-dollar milk just doesn't go very far these days. Efficiency improves by inches, not miles. Costs per head are cut by cents, not dollars. Belts eventually run out of holes to tighten. But cows always have to be fed, and that demands cash.

Many input costs look like they will be a bit lower this year. Diesel already is. Hay is forecast to be. Corn might. Let's hope it doesn't take $18 milk to cover everything because right now Class III futures for 2012 average out about $1 less than last year.

Records are meant to be broken, so let's hope it happens again this year . . . and then the next year and then the next. We could use it.