Dairy farmers struggle to stay afloat with low milk prices

SACRAMENTO, CA - California's dairy farmers are making some noise about the price the state of California set this summer for milk.

They're getting just over $16 per 100-pounds of milk, after asking Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross for a 50-cent increase.

"What was her response? We gotsix cents, which equals $500 a month for a 1,000-cow dairy," Chino Dairy Farmer Syp Vander Dussen said.

With the drought in parts of the U.S. spiking up the price of corn, cattle feed is very expensive.

More than 300 cattle farms in California have already shut down with more on the verge of closing because the cost to manufacture milk now exceeds what they can sell it for.

Nearly all of California dairies are family-owned, Johnny Tachera is third generation, and he's at ropes end.

"We have no money leftover," Tachera said. "We can't do nothing. The banks won't work with us."

Tachera was part of a group that went to Washington, D.C., this week to ask that California be included in a group of states where the federal government sets the milk price, which is currently at $18 per hundred weight.

"$18 a hundred weight only get us to break even what our cost of production is," Tachera said.

Tachera said what they really need is $20.

Since federal approval could take months, the farmers marched to Secretary Ross's office because she has the authority to raise milk prices now.

But the protestors were refused at the door.

The agency said it's aware of the farmers' challenge, but looks at a variety of factors when setting milk prices taking into account the impact on consumers, producers and processors.

Since long-term problems must be fixed, Ross said, "short-term price adjustments may not be an effective approach.

For now, some farmers are selling cows to slaughterhouses to buy feed for the rest of the herd. Others are growing grapes, almonds and other crops to pay for feed.

By Nannette Miranda


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