It’s no secret that American dairy farmers are struggling right now. A dairy cooperative literally sent their farmers mental-health and suicide-prevention letters with their recent milk checks. Many cooperatives are struggling to pay their farmers. In some cases, termination letters were sent to farms letting them know cooperatives will no longer be picking up their milk. Many family farms have already sold their cows, while several more are fearing they could be next.
So how do people help family farms like ours?
Just keep buying dairy products. It doesn’t matter if you buy directly from the farm or from the store. Every gallon of milk you buy, as well as your favorite cheese or ice cream, supports dairy farms. It supports family farms like mine.
If you want to take it a step further and ensure you are buying milk from local farms?
Visit the website whereismymilkfrom.com to see where the milk that makes up your favorite dairy products were processed. The milk processed at that plant most likely comes from surrounding farms.
Regardless of the brand, you are still supporting family farms. Ninety-seven percent of U.S. dairy farms are family owned. Our milk from our family farm can be found under several labels. It is bottled in the same plant — they just change out the packaging and/or label. So while the “name brand” is ideal in supporting our farms, the milk under the store label is likely the same milk. Milk is milk. You buy what is best for your family and budget.
Don’t drink milk or maybe you are lactose intolerant and still want to help? Pick up some extra gallons of milk and/or dairy products and donate them to your local food bank. Maybe you don’t have time for all those extra stops, no problem. Donate online through “The Great American Milk Drive.” Milk is one of the most requested items at food banks, yet, on average, people served by food banks receive the equivalent of less than 1 gallon per person per year.
Do not boycott any brand of milk, and please do not ask others to do so. Right now, American dairy farms need folks drinking more milk and consuming more dairy products. Why? Because our supply is currently out-pacing the demand. A boycott of any kind only hurts dairy farm families like mine. Many farmers are scared and need someone to blame. They are asking folks to boycott “Great Value” milk sold at Wal-Mart. This is not OK. This brand of milk still comes from local farm families like ours. Please do not boycott any brand of milk or share with others to do so. If anything, please just encourage others to buy the brand that is best for their family’s budget.
Think before you share online. I know for a fact that you wouldn’t want folks sharing about you, your family, and/or your way or life based on what they heard from “Susan” or what they read on “Sally’s Blog.” I mean if I want to know you, I should probably talk to you directly, right? This is all we ask as farmers. If you want to know how your food is raised or grown, talk to a farmer. Don’t know one? Search farm blogs online. Get your information straight from the source.
There is a lot of fear, confusion, and misinformation being shared within our industry. What is currently hurting dairy farmers cannot be blamed on one issue or one company. This is something that has to be fixed by dairy farmers within our own industry.
If you truly want to help American dairy farmers, please pray for us. Pray that we can come together despite our differences and find a solution to help our hurting industry.
Krista Stauffer is a wife, mother of three, and first-generation millennial dairy farmer. Krista works side by side with her husband and kids on their 140-cow dairy.