During last week’s National FFA Convention and Expo, I moderated an event called the #SpeakAg Dialogues. Over 100 FFA members were in the room with 4 experts to answer the question, “Why is milk consumption lower today than in years past?”
One of those experts was Indiana dairy farmer Bruce Gingerich from Millersburg in Elkhart County. He explained that labor and input costs continue to rise, but the money coming back is declining.
“If you take the 1981 Class III milk price at about $13.55 and you run that through the United States inflation calculator, we should be getting roughly $41/100 for our milk right now. Instead of that, last month I got $13.21 after they got done taking out everything they can take out.”
Gingerich said he hears all the time about how dairy hasn’t told their story effectively. His response, “We don’t have time. We have work to do 7 days a week. So, we join co-ops, we pay our dues to DMI (Dairy Management Inc.), we count on people to market for us. There are many, many, many farmers who have a great voice, but they can’t exercise that voice in our current situation.”
He told the group that the words ‘market access’ were something dairy farmers had never heard before 10 years ago.
“Now, it’s the most important thing in the dairy industry. And if you’re the one that goes your co-op and rocks the boat and say, ‘You ought to be doing this for me because I pay your salary,’ you just lost your milk market. You don’t want to rock the boat. Every farmer I know is terrified to rock the boat, speak up, and say their peace.”
He also addressed plant-based milk alternatives and how they have cut into profits. The event was filmed and will be on the National FFA website in the near future as an educational tool for members.