Attention cheese lovers: America’s dairy farmers are suffering under grim conditions and need your help!
As a severe drought holds much of the nation in its grip, the specter of bankruptcy looms over the dried-up pastures of many a desperate dairy farm. The Fresno Bee reports of a situation so pervasively bleak that “at least one dairy cooperative is launching a crisis hot line for despondent dairymen and their families.” This news wouldn’t surprise Rich, a dairy farmer from Kentucky, who contributed his gloomy tale to an NPR interview yesterday. “Just five years ago, we were operating with about 500 heads,” Rich explained. “And now we’re down to feeding the calves from cows that we use to have to try to hang on…We are down to a hundred head. And it’s yearling cattle. And these are calves from the mothers that are gone.”
Many small dairy farmers describe the crisis as a nightmarish pile-up of harsh circumstances. According to NBC News, farmer David Franscka and his family have resorted to hauling thousands of gallons of water to their cattle herd now that nearby ponds have dried up, and because pastures have produced insufficient amounts of grass for the herd to graze, Franscka has been forced to buy feed at higher prices than the milk he sells. Feed has grown expensive because of a spike in the cost of corn, one of its major ingredients. MarketWatch crunches the numbers: “arid conditions in the Midwest prompted the Department of Agriculture to cut its corn-harvest forecast 17%, sending corn prices to an intraday record of $8.49 a bushel on Aug. 10. On Tuesday, corn futures notched a record closing level of $8.31 a bushel.”
In fact, The LA Times reports that feed is currently so expensive that one Kentucky farmer prefers feeding his cows candy rejected from retail operations. If you think that’s unfortunate, Bloomberg Businessweek News reports that the drought has allowed anthrax bacteria to proliferate, which recently caused the deaths of 60 cows in Colorado. Scientists warn that similar outbreaks may afflict herds in other drought-stricken states.
Cheese lovers, we must do our part to help the small dairy farmer get by! Spread the word about the crisis in any way you can and urge the powers that be to take effective action – a good way to start is signing this Farm Aid letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. And if you want an especially delicious way to contribute to the livelihood of struggling dairy farmers and cheesemakers, check out Artisanal Premium Cheese’s RocketHub campaign, The Great American Cheese Project.Posted by Artisanal Cheese