As we all know, Vermont dairy farms are an endangered species. The price of raw milk paid to our dairy farmers has dropped to its lowest level in 40 years. There has been a 40% to 50% drop in prices paid for raw milk to dairy farmers in 2009 ($13.81 cwt) compared to 2008 ($20 cwt). Vermont dairy farmers cannot set the price their milk sells for - they have to accept a federally-set milk commodity price that is based on international supply and demand, not on the realities of New England.
Vermont will not have dairy farms much longer unless farmers begin to receive a fair price for the milk they produce. Vermonters must face the reality that the federal government won’t save our dairy farms, that the state government can’t save them, and neither will the tooth fairy.
But, collectively, the people of Vermont can, by seeing to it that a statewide “Vermont Fair-Priced Milk” program is implemented immediately. Most of us are familiar with “fair trade” pricing for goods from other countries - a price that attempts to cover the cost of production, maintenance, and a living wage to cover the basics of food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care for producing farmers. It’s time for this type of justice for Vermont dairy farmers.
We must immediately call upon all Vermont milk retailers to sell milk at a price equivalent to the price it would be selling at if our dairy farmers were receiving $20 per hundred weight for their milk. The difference between the current “world commodity price” (which is a non-living wage) and milk sold at a “Vermont Fair-Priced Milk” price would be collected and regularly divided among current Vermont dairy farmers based on some kind of equitable formula, such as, the amount of milk they produce and sell each month through their existing channels.
It won’t matter where the milk Vermont retailers sell comes from - it will be the people of Vermont saying that milk sold in Vermont will be sold at a fair price and our dairy farmers will receive the benefit directly - via a program that puts the money in the farmers’ pockets.
We must call upon Governor Douglas to order the Vermont Department of Agriculture to implement and administer this statewide emergency program immediately - within its existing budget. Current nonessential state dairy programs must be put on hold. Life threatening emergencies require immediate lifesaving action.
Contact Governor Douglas immediately at (802) 828-3333 or (800) 649-6825.