Monday, March 11, 2013
Dairy: The most fragile agriculture
From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: Sad news today. Another dairy processor, in Monett, has announced they’re shutting down. They can’t get enough milk to keep the plant going, because farmers have stopped keeping cows. I had a talk with Dave Drennon, Missouri’s dairy industry scorekeeper, and he says our state was #2 in the nation in numbers of cows back in the late 1970s. The city of Springfield was nicknamed “little Madison” after the Wisconsin capital. Our location was perfect for dairy—lots of grain in the north part of the state and pasture in the south. Now the grain is going to make ethanol for cars instead of milk for people. We’re #25 and falling. We “import” 60% of the milk we use in the state. We’ve laid off hundreds of thousands of workers in the dairy business, from farmers to processors to veterinarians to builders and fixers of equipment. All of those workers did business in their local communities, so every layoff has a ripple effect. Tomorrow at noon, the University is to make a report to the legislature on the economic impact of losing dairy farms. I hope they pay attention. That’s enough for today. March 11, 2013.