Protect independent dairy farmers

Fifty Eight Wisconsin farm families recently received a pink slip from their milk buyer, Grassland Dairy Products.

They were given one month to find a new home for their product or close their doors. These farms were diverse in their makeup. They included the multi-generational homestead to those who just made significant long-term investments in hopes of improving their business.

Grassland is dropping family farms, while at the same time seeking to permit and operate a 5,000 head corporate dairy in Dunn County.

So why not just find a new processor/partner? Nearly every processor in the state is at capacity. My farm is fortunate to work with a forward-thinking cooperative like Land O Lakes. They project their handling capacity and marketing potential to harmonize their member farms production.

You are assigned a baseline, off your history and what your milk shed can handle. If you want to expand, you have to apply and go through an approval process. You are able to over-produce, but you are paid less on your excess.

Hint to Grassland, this keeps existing family farms from subsidizing mega corporate farms and bearing the brunt of processor inadequacies.

Ironically, Grassland is blaming Canada, who was trying to stabilize their own domestic dairy industry, because they put restrictions on imported ultra-filtered milk.

Farmers already have the disadvantage of buying everything at retail and selling at wholesale. Now they are being abandoned because of industry failure to match output with consumer demand and an over-reliance on international markets to get rid of excess production.

Having many independent farms is better for our economy than a vertical integrated supply chain. Our farms patronize local business and serve their communities. They are the backbone of many towns and rural communities. It would be nice if some state and national dairy policy developed some back bone in protecting family farmers.

Jeff Peck