June is National Dairy Month, an apt time for the dairy industry to promote milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products as the summer season begins.
Created as a way to promote milk consumption way back in the 1930s, National Dairy Month has become an annual celebration of the dairy industry.
However, it’s not always a good time for dairy farmers themselves, despite how well the dairy industry may appear to consumers. So even as we recognize the goodness and plentitude of dairy products in our grocery aisles, let us take a moment to remember what many hardworking dairy farms are experiencing as they struggle to stay in profitable operation.
Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), recently said that National Dairy Month “provides a great platform to educate consumers about U.S. dairy production.” His organization represents nearly 200,000 family farmers and ranchers nationwide, including members in nine of the top 10 milk producing states.
Unfortunately, he went on to say, the dairy industry has not been immune to the lagging farm economy that has impacted much of the farm sector. The NFU is working with stakeholders to properly align the needs of dairy farmers with the existing safety net in order to ensure that dairy farmers are able to continue for future generations.
“Family dairy producers have faced an extended period of low milk prices and surplus production while adapting to policy changes that have provided little relief to the producer,” Johnson said.
Consumers do not always see the difference between the price of milk at the grocery store and the price of milk received by the dairy farmer. The supply chain from the farm to the food aisle can leave consumers far removed from how their food is produced. According to the NFU, dairy farmers receive less than 35 percent of the cost for a gallon of milk than consumers pay in the store.
This National Dairy Month, let us be thankful for our daily milk and bountiful dairy, but let us also pray for our dairy farmers who struggle daily to make ends meet.
Take a moment to learn more about the plight of dairy farmers by reviewing our blog post of October 2015. This was part of an effort led by the National Family Farm Coalition to push members of Congress to respond to what was happening on dairy farms around the country.
Also, see “Milking the System: Dairy Supply”, an 8-page issue brief (#5) that we posted as part of our Agribusiness Accountability Initiative. Although this was produced several years ago, the information is still relevant to today’s situation.