As a dairy farmer in Pennsylvania over the past 30 years, I've lived through the ups and downs of this extremely volatile industry. Over the past decade, dairy farmers have experienced the highs of 2008 and 2010 and the extreme lows of 2003, 2006 and 2009, which was the worst year in the lifetime of most dairy farmers, because the price we received for milk plummeted, while production costs reached all-time high levels.
The low times have been especially challenging, since it typically takes three good years to recover from one down year.
Each year, June is recognized as National Dairy Month and is celebrated here in Pennsylvania. Throughout the month, you will likely hear about how dairy farmers contribute significantly to the state's economy and how they support thousands of jobs and rural communities - all of this information is true. It's equally important to note that regardless of the economic picture on the farm, the top priority of dairy farmers is to produce high-quality, safe milk for consumers. We take the trust you put in us very seriously.
As vice president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) and chairman of PFB's State Dairy Committee, I am involved in many meetings and discussions about the future of dairy farming, including proposals to reduce volatility and create a better future for dairy producers. I firmly believe the U.S. needs to be a global dairy supplier, not a balancing nation. We can't afford to keep making products for our own government to purchase and then store products that no one wants. We also need to make sure that dairymen have equal access to reliable and workable safety net programs, like a margin protection program or a risk management insurance product.
As lawmakers consider the next Farm Bill, I encourage milk producers to work together to identify positive changes to dairy policy. A perfect solution may be difficult to attain, but if we work together we can achieve a legislative outcome that will improve the long-term outlook for milk producers.
Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in milk production thanks to more than 7,000 farm families. We appreciate the support we receive from Pennsylvanians who purchase our products and look forward to continuing to providing consumers with a wide variety of high quality and good tasting items in the future.
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Richard Ebert is the vice president Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. He is a full-time dairy farmer from Blairsville, Westmoreland County.