April 04, 2018 04:30 AM
You may have noticed lower milk prices at the grocery store.
However, those lower milk prices have sparked suicide concerns among dairy farmers.
Milk is New York State's top agricultural product. But for the past four years, falling milk prices have put a lot of stress on those farmers.
"The impact here is pretty simple,” said dairy farmer Hal Adams of Black Brook Farm. “Our net income right now is zero."
Dairy farmer Adams and his wife Kerri have run Black Brook Farm in Farmington since the 1980S.
Like many, they're feeling the pinch of low milk prices.
"Well, it certainly takes the fun out of what we do,” Hal Adams said. “I mean, we like what we do. But when you're doing it for nothing, that's not as enjoyable."
Right now, a good month at Black Brook means that the Adams’ pay the bills without borrowing money. They've had to work longer hours to even make that work. But for many farmers, the reality is getting bleaker.
"We can continue to operate,” Hal Adams said. “Farms with a lot of debt may not have that opportunity, so their stress is going to be much higher."
"There have been farms that have gone out of business,” said Elizabeth Wolters of the New York Farm Bureau. “Farms have had to take out additional lines of credit. Some farms have had to have sales of livestock and/or equipment. So it is really challenging."
The severe stress lead dairy co-op, Agri-Mark to include suicide prevention literature with payment checks in February following the suicide of one of the dairy farmers in their network.
Agri-<ark represents 500 New York State farms.
"I think it's really important information for all farmers to have, especially in these down times," Wolters said.
NY Farm Net has services to help farmers navigate these trying time.
"We have to do something to help our dairy farmers,” said U.S. New York Senator Chuck Schumer. “Now, we got a big leg up in this year's budget, we put some actual dollars in there to help our dairy farmers with support."
The federal farm bill due this year will be the opportunity to allocate those funds, and improve safety nets for milk producers.
"I would listen to the New York Farm Bureau and see what they think is best for our dairy farmers,” Schumer said. “That's what I've done in the past, and then try to implement it."
“Hands down, the thing that would help the most would be to not get in a trade war with the rest of the world," Hal Adams said.
He said that 20% of U.S. milk is exported. Just a few years ago, federal lawmakers fought unfair trade practices by Canada over milk products. Sen. Schumer said that it'll be a focus of new NAFTA discussions this year.
"The President has put this on the agenda, and the negotiators are discussing it,” Schumer said. “I hope we can get a good outcome for our ultra-filtered milk, which so many of our dairy farmers depend on."
Hal Adams said that the downturns seem to have gotten longer. He is hopeful himself, and fellow dairy farms, have seen the worse already.
"There's stress for everyone,” he said. “Honestly, when I go to farm meetings, a lot of my colleagues don't want to talk about it."
Updated: April 04, 2018 04:30 AM
Created: April 03, 2018 10:00 PM
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