A farm advocacy group is bringing dairy farmers from Ontario to Michigan to talk about the province’s dairy market management system.
“We want to gather as many family dairy farmers as we can and begin a discussion that has been started and stopped several times,” said Bob Thompson of Weidman, president of the Michigan Farmers Union.
“What does the individual family dairy farmer want in terms of trying to create a united effort to create a better marketing system for dairy?” he said.
Ontario farmers get about 25 percent more for their milk than do farmers in Michigan and elsewhere in the United States. They do that by collectively negotiating prices and adjusting milk production to match consumer demand.
Canadian farmers avoid the sort of milk glut that pushes prices below the cost of producing it, a problem for most small Michigan farms. But it also pushes up consumer prices.
The group is sponsoring a series of meetings called Dairy Together featuring Canadian farmers Ralph Deitrich and Will Vanderhorst. The nearest local meeting is 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. June 13 at the Michigan Works! office, 3270 Wilson St., Marlette.
He said the meetings are modeled on a similar Dairy Together initiative by the Wisconsin Farmers Union.
“The Wisconsin Farmers Union Dairy Together initiative over the past 18 months has had real success with people wanting more information, particularly from the Canadians, to understand their process better and adapt it to the states,” Thompson said.
“The Dairy Farmers of Ontario have agreed to take the time to help explain how they operate and what their structure is.”
He said Ontario dairy farmers operate under a quota system.
“In order to sell extra milk, you have to buy somebody out, essentially,” he said.
In Michigan, the dairy industry has struggled with too much production which results in lower prices for the producers, Thompson said.
Dropping milk prices squeeze producers
“What our people think, the Michiganders, we’ll hopefully put this all together and take it to the Legislature and see what we can do,” he said.
The remaining four meetings in the series will be in central and western Michigan.
“We would have liked to have gone even farther north,” Thompson. “We are trying to use the time of our Canadian folks to our best advantage and strategically locate these meetings to have the largest potential for attendance.”
He’d be happy if every dairy farmer in Michigan could attend.
“I’m hopeful,” Thompson said. “I was able to acquire a list of all dairy farmers in the state of Michigan, roughly 1,400 names and addresses on that list with Grade A permits, and we have invited each one of them.
“We want to generate the largest possible crowd,” he said. “These folks have taken their time to come, and we are also having officials from our national office and our Wisconsin office coming over to share what they learned.”
Source: Times Herald