Since December 2008, the price that farmers are paid for the milk they produce has dropped over 50 percent -- the largest single drop since the Great Depression -- to a point far below the cost of production. This unprecedented collapse in prices has occurred in large part due to market manipulations and increased foreign imports by milk industry giants.
Increasingly, dairy farmers are at the mercy of these giants, such as the Dairy Farmers of America, the country's largest dairy "cooperative" which controls 40% of US milk production. Last year DFA was fined $12 million for price fixing by the US government and has also been implicated in the recent massive increase in imported milk products.
Already banks across the country are cutting off farmers' access to credit and at least two dairy farmers have committed suicide in California. The latest estimates are that the crash in domestic prices might lead to the loss of up to 30 percent of the remaining dairy farmers by the end of this year -- as many as 20,000 family dairy farmers could be off the land by the end of this year.
The loss of this many family farmers across the country will have a devastating economic impact on rural America, erasing over $52.7 billion of economic development in less than one year. Even worse, the loss of domestic supply will also create a serious gap in U.S. food safety as the DFA and others dramatically increase foreign milk protein concentrate (MPC) imports from countries such as Mexico, India and China -- countries which have much lower food safety standards than we do.
Today we're asking that Secretary Tom Vilsack, head of the United States Department of Agriculture, halt this injustice and adjust the price of milk paid to farmers to "reflect the price of production” by invoking his authority under Section 608c (18) of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. This legally mandated "floor price" should be at least $17.50 per cwt (a cwt is the standard measure for milk producers).
Because of the importance of this matter and the fact that we want every voice to be heard, we have partnered with Credo who has agreed to send a fax in your name to Secretary Vilsack's office.
Please send an electronic fax to Secretary Vilsack today to let him know that you support America's family dairy farmers.
We must stand by them so they can continue to produce a safe product that not only nourishes our children, but also our rural communities. Without a fair price for their milk, they can do neither. Now is the time to embark on meaningful reforms in dairy pricing to ensure that a disaster like this never happens again.
If you'd like Secretary Vilsack to hear your concerns in person, please call his office at (202) 720-3631 after you send your fax and tell him that you stand with America's dairy farmers during this crisis.
Thanks again for your action on this, America's dairy farmers are counting on you!
Food Democracy Now!
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We'd also like to encourage you to sign Farm Aid's petition to Secretary Vilsack urging him to use his authority to establish an emergency floor price. For the past