The future of small dairy farms

Low milk prices are forcing small dairy farmers into financial stress, and it may be more than they can handle.

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 6:14 PM

Milk has been at historically low prices for the last three years. This year isn’t looking any better and the financial stress it’s putting on dairy farmers may be playing a part in suicide rates. A study by the Center for Disease Control found people working in agriculture is higher than any other occupation. That has Agriculture Economic Specialist Marty Broccoli worried.

"You know as scary as it is the suicide rate is a concern. I mean these people have given their life blood building and working 7 days a week, and when it’s sinking its devastating to them."

Over at Dodge Farms, Jordanna Larish is struggling to make ends meet. She’s left college to help keep the family dairy farm going. The dairy farm’s been in her family since 1801, but now they’re considering other options in farming.

"The prices being so low and our herd being so small, it’s getting less and less feasible to do it."

The price of milk isn’t putting Rob Collins out of business. He’s keeping his profit levels even because of high volume, but if the milk prices don’t become profitable, he too may be looking for other options.

"We will outlast quite a few people because our cost of production is much lower than some others because of the volume, but I don’t want to do it long term and we won’t. We will find something else to do if we don’t see this turning around."

Jordanna Larish thinks there’s options out there for everyone. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

"The best option for people right now is to kind of lay everything out and see what’s available for their particular farm. Every farm is different. That’s the main thing. They’re all different sizes. They’re all different families and people, so the solution is different for everyone."

Getting out of the dairy industry doesn’t necessarily mean getting out of farming. There’s plenty of other ways to make a profit in agriculture, but Marty Broccoli says dairy is the backbone of the farming industry, and action needs to be taken to protect it.

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease and we got to really start squealing right now. We kept thinking it was going to change and change and change and go the other way and it’s not."

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