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Low prices put squeeze on dairy farmers

June 18, 2009
In The News

GREENWOOD -- Local dairy farmers are losing about $100 a month for each cow milked on their farm, said a Greenwood man who has lobbied lawmakers in the nation's capital for more support.

Bill Herr and his wife, Jane, own Hyland Dairy Farm, with 85 milking cows and 700 acres of cropland. If it weren't for the crops they grow and harvest, he said, they would be confronted with an $8,500 loss each month because dairying currently makes no money.

In May, Herr traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak with Wisconsin legislators about the difficulties facing their constituent dairy farmers. He represented the Dairy Farmers of America.

"I've done this four times, and this year, I think they really listened," said Herr, who met with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and aides working for other legislators. "They know something needs to be done."

The Dairy Export Incentive Program was activated to bolster dairy prices through exports, Kind said.

"The greatest hope is for a market recovery, which will increase sales," he said.

Besides milk pricing support, Kind said, farmers need access to affordable loans to sustain their operations until the market improves.

"The FSA (Farm Service Administration) loan applications are going through the ceiling," he said, noting the loan program recently was approved for supplemental funding. "The money is there, so more of these loans are available now."

The current price farmers receive for milk is about $9.90 per 100 pounds, the lowest rate since 1985, said Jane Herr.

"Last year about this time, it was $21 per hundredweight," she said. "And in other years, it's been higher than that."

Tight money management has kept the Herrs' farm thriving through the peaks and valleys of milk and commodity prices.

"It's always up and down," Bill Herr said. "You really need to manage your money carefully."