For Immediate Release: August 19, 2010
Contact: Jeff Beach (609) 439-2038
or Lynne Richmond (609) 633-2954
(TRENTON) – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture today offered options for a “framework” to help keep dairy farmers on their farms and milking cows amid the recent severe pricing crisis, and to help bring long-term economic stability to the dairy industry from the farm to the table.
The options address the growing number of farmers selling off their herds because the prices they receive for their milk does not cover the cost of production. This and other issues affecting dairy economics will be the subject of public work sessions with farmers and the entire dairy industry in the coming weeks.
The options range from pushing for federal market order reform to shifting a slice of money through the dairy marketing chain toward the farmers to cover the difference between the state average cost of production and the prices farmers need to continue operations.
“The milk price the farmer has received has been exceedingly low for the past two years, and we haven’t always seen that translate into lower prices to the consumer,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “These frameworks examine the ways in which we might direct more of the dairy dollar to New Jersey’s farmers so that they can remain in the business of providing a locally produced supply of fresh, wholesome milk to our residents and our schoolchildren.”
Beyond a locally produced supply of milk, Secretary Fisher said, the benefits of keeping dairy farms in business include maintaining productive farm operations and open space, which staves off further development and the increased municipal and school costs and taxes that go with it.
“In the 1960s, New Jersey had more than 3,500 dairy farms,” said Secretary Fisher. “Today we have 87, mainly because the percentage of the ‘dairy dollar’ the farmer has received went from above 50 percent to as low as 25 percent. The correlation couldn’t be clearer. We must do what we can to retain those dairy farms that are left in New Jersey. They are an important part of our agricultural landscape and a contributor to having a range of locally produced, wholesome foods that come from the Garden State.”
The options will be opened to the industry and public during a series of informal work sessions to learn the level of commitment to local production within the segments of the marketing chain and to encourage alternatives and revisions to the options identified. The full schedule of these sessions will be posted on the Department’s website.
The schedule as currently known is:
- Thursday, August 26, at the Rutgers Extension Office in Augusta, Sussex County
- Friday, August 27, at the Health and Agriculture Building, Trenton
- Thursday, September 2, at the Rutgers Extension Office in Woodstown, Salem County
- Tuesday, September 14, at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Columbus, Burlington County
All of the work sessions will begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m., or later if necessary to hear from all those present who wish to speak. To see the proposed framework in its entirety, please visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/pdf/frameworkoptions%20.pdf.