Today I listened to a dairy farmer describe her past year in business. Like all other dairy farmers in the nation, her farm was in crisis. She no longer has TV or trash pick-up. She can’t afford it. She could barely buy food for herself and her husband, which is rather ironic considering that her business is producing food for the nation. She drives a 1989 truck and can’t afford to replace it. She sold off a woodlot at a 50% loss, and that woodlot was intended to pay for her retirement. She’s having a hard time paying for feed and veterinary care for the cows too. This is, of course, cruel to the cows, whose lives are put at risk through no fault of their own. And it’s a problem that is not unique to her farm. Any credit the farmers used to have to buy things they need has now run out. Their suppliers are struggling with a customer base of broke dairy farmers who can’t repay their bills, and now they are asking for cash payments instead of credit. That’s cash the farmers don’t have.

Another farmer said that his 40 cows grossed over $80k in 2008 but under $50k in 2009. His federal assistance for 2009 was $6k, which is pathetic considering his shortfall of tens of thousands of dollars. He works 90-100 hours a week on his farm and his wife works at Wal-Mart. Still, he qualifies for Medicaid and food stamps, which he feels is “humiliating.”

Others spoke about dairy farmers around them going out of business, which in turn put the local businesses that support dairy farms out of business. For the remaining farmers, this is a huge problem as now they don’t have local sources of numerous things they need. One said she felt that the U.S. government obviously does not think that the U.S. needs dairy farmers, based on their policies and statements. She thinks it’s their policy to put U.S. dairy farmers out of business.

These farmers are not unique. Today, they are the norm. In 2009, the average dairy farm lost $270,000. In 2010, they will lose a projected $240,000. To put that in perspective, last year’s lost was about $.90 per gallon.  Costs went up by 35% in 2009 while the price of milk received by farmers went down 45%. The farmers say the solution is passing Senate bill 1645 and a companion bill in the House. This bill was sponsored by Arlen Specter. Please, please call or write your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor S. 1645.