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Federal Milk Costs Drowning Local Dairy Farms

By Kerry Longobucco.
An organization says small dairy farms nationwide are in crisis -- unable to make a profit due to the low price of milk. The Progressive Agriculture Organization says a flawed federal milk pricing system is leaving these farms bone dry.

Local farmers say they're barely keeping their heads above water, due to federal marketing orders that dictate the price at which they sell their milk.

"It's close to $30 dollars to make a hundred pounds of milk, and we're getting $15," Bob Vincent, manager of Oxford's Miry Run Farms, said. "It doesn't even put out enough money to cover your bills every month."

Like many local farmers, the owners of Miry Run have had to make the heartbreaking decision to ditch the dairy business for greener pastures. On Friday, the farmers will be auctioning off all their cows, and focusing only on crops in the future.

It's an emotional time for Vincent -- who's spent the last 22 years milking cows on the farm.

"It's going to be tough. It's different," Vincent said. "I don't know what the lifestyle will be, but it will be a big change."

A number of factors set the price of milk -- including federal milk marketing orders, import restrictions, export subsidies, and domestic and international food aid programs.

Dairy was once the bread and butter of Chenango County -- but one retired farmer says those days are long gone.

"When I came to Chenango County in 1976, there were 733 farms shipping milk. Now, there are about 120," Dibbell said.

The Progressive Agriculture Organization is calling on New York's U.S.
senators to change the way the cost of milk is determined.

"There's a different cost of production on every farm -- we realize that. But we think it's time they bring the cost of production into a pricing formula so dairy farmers have an opportunity to cover their cost of operations," Pro-Ag's Arden Tewksbury said. "It's really a sad thing to think that farmers are working hard every day, and getting paid 35 percent less than what they were in 2014."

It's too late for his farm -- but Vincent says he hopes the system changes for the sake of the industry.

"Farmers have never asked to be rich," Vincent said. "But if they could just break even, that would be a good thing."