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Dairy Farms in Crisis Part III: A threat to our way of life

While many readers may think the survival of small, family-owned dairy farms is not important to their way of life, that would be short-sighted. Whatever your own occupation and source of income may be, the tax base and productive economy of Yates County is dominated by agriculture; and a large portion of that is in dairy farms or in service to dairy farms. The prosperity of this region hinges upon the survival of the family farm, its sustainability and profitability, and the land values that accompany that. But with a bleak future for dairy farmers on a rapidly approaching horizon, and the threat of an international trade war that could target many U.S. agricultural products looming overhead, many of the aging generations of farmers are discouraging their children from pursuing that way of life.

As supplies continue to glut the market, large cooperatives and corporations seek to pass on their costs as far down the line as possible. In one local instance, the otherwise well-regarded Byrne Dairy increased their pick up fee from $5 to $50 overnight. That flat fee is based on each visit the milk hauler’s truck makes to a farm, usually every other day. Based on 182 visits per year, that means a manageable $910 per year became a sudden $9,100 hit for a farm family’s income. The poll tax nature of this fee means that the small producer who only contributes a few hundred gallons to a truckload pays the same fee as a mega-producer who fills a whole tanker. And as processing plants are conglomerated, consolidate, or closed, that means the mileage fees, also paid by the farmers, are increasing as well.

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