Dairy leaders hold emergency meeting

MORRISVILLE – With fluid milk prices less than half of what they were a year ago, our nation’s dairy farmers are in crisis.

“These are serious times,” said David Rama, one of the organizers of a conference held on Friday at Morrisville State College which brought more than 200 farmers, vendors and consumers together to discuss the ramification of and possible solutions to the plight of the dairy industry.

After 30 years working with dairy farmers as an auctioneer, Rama said he’d never witnessed anything like what he’s seeing in the industry today.

“This is nationwide,” he said. “We’re talking about the systematic destruction ... and annihilation of an industry.”

Dairy’s problems stem from two issues, according to Rama and others who presented during the one day event. The first is the way in which milk prices are set on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The second, related to the under-regulated importing of milk protein concentrates which displace domestic dairy products and threaten the safety of our food system, he explained.

According to John Bunting, author of a whitepaper titled “The Dairy Farm Crisis 2009,” supply and demand are not factors in milk pricing. Rather, the price of milk is tied to the price set for block cheddar cheese on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. This is not a true market, he explained, because there are “so few purchasers, that the activity of any one purchaser can affect the entire market.”

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