Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002,
news -- Vermont resident Bob Hatch sent the CropChoice
news service this story from the Sept. 25 edition of The Caledonian-Record
News. "When I mentioned the story to a few people in other areas
of Vermont and parts of New Hampshire, nobody had heard any mention
of the story," Hatch noted.
You get what you pay for.
That was Ryegate dairy farmer Gordon Murray’s belief when he
sent a bag of cow manure in place of the usual milk shipment to the
handler on Monday to protest low milk prices.
||"If you pay for shit, you should get
shit," said Vermont dairy farmer Gordon Murray.
Murray dumped 2,800 pounds of milk out Monday rather than let it
continue to be sold at such a low rate that he is barely able to
"If you pay for shit, you should get shit," Murray said
from his dairy barn Tuesday afternoon while cows in stanchions munched
To bring further attention to the situation, Murray hung an effigy
of a farmer dressed in overalls dangling from a noose in front of
his dairy barn with a sign stating, "USDA Hangs Farmers."
The sign was referring to a recently announced delay in payments
under the new U.S. Department of Agriculture national farm plan.
"The USDA has stalled out on proposed time frame for Milk
Income Loss Contract program," said Ryegate dairy farmer Jenny
Nelson, also a congressional aide to U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Farmers were told checks would be available Oct. 15, but have
been delayed until Nov. 15 at the earliest, she said.
Prices farmers receive for milk have dropped from $17 to $11 per
hundredweight since last October, which translates into a 30 to
40 percent drop. Cost-cutting measures to offset the drop in income
cannot be made on dairy farms, Nelson said. "We can't turn
cows off. They have to be fed and milked every day. You can't lock
the door and let it sit idle until business picks up," she
In general this year, money paid to dairy farmers is at an all-time
low, while retail prices remain roughly the same. Profits from milk
sales are being pocketed by milk handlers and processors, Nelson
suggested, saying, "somebody is getting some big bucks. There
have been between 81 and 84 million dollars in lost revenue to farmers
in the state of Vermont."
While farmers are getting lower prices for the product, the consumer
pays the same price at the store for a gallon of milk.
As far as what to do about it, on a federal level, Nelson said
more enforcement can be done to reduce milk protein concentrate
being brought into this country from overseas and sold in cheese
Also, antitrust action could be brought against Suiza Foods, a
milk handler that now controls 70 to 80 percent of fluid milk in
One dairy farming group is going to organize a boycott against
a product that allegedly uses imported milk protein concentrate
in their products, Nelson said. "There is about to be a boycott
on Kraft Singles put on by Family Farm Defenders out of Wisconsin
... because it is made with milk protein concentrate (from) Europe
and New Zealand."
On the local level, each farmer has his own style.
Murray sent a message by sending manure instead of milk to protest
He milks 35 to 40 head of Jerseys out of a 120-head herd. Last
year he got $5,000 from the milk, but this year, it is closer to
$2,000, but said he hopes to get more profitable so his two sons
can work on the family farm his father once ran.
Murray said most farmers are quiet about how bad the low prices
are affecting them.
"Everyone is so hush-hush," he said. "They are
hanging on for dear lives, and it isn't right. We should be at a