CA: It’s Past Time, But Not Too Late, for a New Approach to Dairy Economics in the U.S.

Mark McAfee

All across America, dairymen and their families have lost their farms and livelihoods. Communities have suffered and even the processors have suffered when they have closed their plants and are forced to move due to loss of regional dairy milk supply.

As an American dairy organization, California Dairy Campaign has taken a leadership role and has joined with other farmer-based organizations to solve this crisis.

We have looked north and invited dairymen from Canada to mentor us and provide us with a lesson on how they manage their system of Supply, Price and Import management.  We call our proposal the Sustainable Milk Inventory System Act… or SMISA

The PowerPoint available here  is our American version of the Three-Legged Milk Stool. Everyone wins….even the tax payer. Under the current very dysfunctional system, shoppers pay twice for their dairy products, once at the store and then again in their taxes and subsidies. Under our SMISA system, the prices stay the same for consumers and there are no taxes or handouts required to be given to the farmers.  Since 2000, California has lost about half of their dairies. We are at about 1250 dairies today and we are losing about one each week. This last year alone we lost 30 organic dairies in California. For all dairies, chronic over supply and extremely low prices continue with no end in sight.  We are now going on our fifth year of crisis.  Wisconsin is losing two dairies each day!!

It is time to make a system-wide change. If we do not, we are facing a whole new range of problems. We will only have a few dairies left in the USA and they will be environmental MEGA  disaster zones with 20,000-30,000 cows at each site and waste zones so large that no consumer will want to buy the product. Trucking costs to move that milk thousands of miles to their markets will be costly and add to additional climate challenges. Consumers won’t like that either placing further upward pressures on the retail price for milk.

The time is now to act and shift the power to the producer and assure regional milk supplies from size-appropriate operations located near their markets not four states away.

Under SMISA everyone wins including: the soils, water sheds and aquafers, the cows, farmers, feed suppliers, dairy venders, processors, tax payers, communities, consumers….even the environment! Even the banks and the courts…no more bankruptcies!  50 years of success in Canada is the economic trial and case study. It is proven to work. Cooperation has always worked. Farmer on farmer cannibalization has never worked and the current crisis is evidence of this de-evolution. Collaboration has always worked and SMISA is our plan.

All across America we are hearing and seeing support coming off the farm and into the light. Even the Wisconsin farm bureau has passed resolutions of support for sustainable supply management.

Mark McAfee milks 900 cows selling organic raw milk in Fresno, Calif.  He’s a board member of CDC which is affiliated with the California Farmers Union and the National Farmers Union. 

 DairyBusiness interviewed Mark McAfee earlier this fall about the SMISA Program.  Here’s the link:

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