Consumers will soon pay less for a gallon of milk -- but the price drop may put struggling Florida dairy farmers out of business. Dairy farmers have survived two bad hurricane seasons, which damaged property and killed cows. They also face environmental pressure and the lure to sell farmland to real estate developers. And now experts say the price of milk has not kept up with inflation, which may put many out of business. But Tom Pittman with Southeast Milk – a farmer owned coop – says Florida’s dairy farmers are a resilient group.
”They’re finding ways to cut costs I guess to really hang in there and go through the low period. A lot of them realize that the prices do cycle up and down and a lot of times the number of months with low milk prices tend to outnumber the months with high milk prices.”
Farmers saw a one-quarter cut in their prices between last fall and March. It will go down another 8 percent by June under controls set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today Florida has 165 dairy farms. Four decades ago it had 500.
Consumers might have noticed milk is less expensive this month. But that lower cost is hurting Florida’s 165 dairy farms. Many have found themselves struggling to keep up with competition from other more productive states, to recover from hurricanes and to keep from selling out to developers.
A 25 percent drop in the price of milk paid to farmers since last fall plus another 8 percent drop expected next month may put many Florida dairymen out of business, says Tom Pittman of the farmer owned coop – Southeast Milk.
“The dairy farmers here are a resilient group and I do believe that most of them will be able to survive this downturn in milk prices but there’s going to be a few that are not going to survive and hopefully over the long term we have enough stay in business here to keep the Florida market supplied with milk.”
Pittman says commercial dairy farming is very competitive. The recent price drop will make it even harder for family farms to remain, furthering a trend in corporate farming nationwide.
Wednesday, 19 April 2006 01:00