Dairy Farming in
the North Country
At the beginning of the summer, the North Country dairy industry
was dealt a serious shock. Kraft Foods announced it was considering
closing its Canton plant after making award-winning cheddar there
for more than fifty years. A shutdown would leave 70 people without
jobs and have far-reaching effects throughout the region.
The time seemed right to look at the challenges facing dairy
in the North Country. In part 1 we look at the price of milk,
as seen through the eyes of one mid-size dairy farmer. In part
2 we visit a cheese manufacturer proposing drastic changes in
the way North Country farmers do business. David Sommerstein reports.
Part 1: Surviving the Price of Milk
Budgeting on Dairy Farms Without a Steady Paycheck
In this first part of our series on the dairy industry in the
North Country, David Sommerstein looks at the price of milk as seen
through the eyes of one mid-size dairy farmer.
USDA's dairy page explains
the milk pricing system
Cornell University's program
on dairy markets
David Sommerstein talks with Julie Suarez of the New York Farm
Bureau about how the price of milk is set on the national market.
Part 2: Can Producers and Processors Collaborate?
The North Country dairy industry is built on manufacturing.
Most of the milk cows produce is turned into something elsecheese,
butter, yogurt, milk powder. The relationship between dairy farmers
and the processing plants they sell their milk to is a symbiotic
one. But like all close relationships, there can be tension, even
outright feuds. In the second part of our series on dairy in the
North Country, David Sommerstein looks at the relationship from
one processorís point of view, who says the future lies in the
two groups becoming one.
McCadam Cheese website
New York Farm Bureau website
As in a study in the intractability of some of the problems facing
the dairy industry, compare the two following stories from July
2000 and September 1987:
A group of North Country dairy farmers joined hundreds of others
around the nation in dumping milk on the Fourth of July in 2000,
to protest low prices. The group is part of a nationwide dairy
industry push to ask Congress to give farmers more control over
the price and distribution system for milk. More than 40 farmers
and their families gathered on the Aubertine farm in Jefferson
county on Independence Day and watched as thousands of gallons
of fresh milk were drained from large tanker trucks into a manure
pit. As the torrent of milk soaked into the ground, Todd Moe
spoke with Vince Aubertine.
North Country farmers dumped milk to protest low milk prices
fifteen years ago, on Labor Day, 1987. Dumping is the ultimate
step for the farmer who has raised the cow, kept her, milked
her. But theirs was more than a symbolic gesture. Two dozen
farms were hoping their milk strike would catch onthat
enough farmers would join in to turn the law of supply and
demand to their cause. They were remembering the milk strike
of 1967. Martha Foley visited the Mitchell farm just outside
Canton and filed the story for North Country Public Radio,
and NPR. At that time, there were 860 active farms in St.
Lawrence County, one of the top dairy counties east of the
Mississippi. They were making more per hundredweight of milk
than farmers did in August 2002.