One of the most effective ways for everyday citizens to advocate for positive change is through sharing their personal stories and experiences with policymakers. As part of our ongoing work on the dairy crisis, Farm Aid has reached out to struggling farmers across the country, encouraging them to take a few minutes to reflect on how the dramatic crash in dairy prices has affected their farms, families, and communities. Individual letters to key legislators and USDA administrators put an important face to the crisis and reiterate the serious need for immediate and strong action. Not to mention that some of the best solutions to public problems come from those they hit the hardest.
Below are excerpts from two letters we’ve received from farmers who were willing to share their story. If you’d like to participate in Farm Aid’s dairy letter campaign to Secretary Vilsack, click here for a PDF with some basic tips on writing an effective letter. We’d be more than happy to pass the letter on to Washington, DC for you – all you have to do is ask.
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
I am writing to urge you to institute an emergency floor price for raw milk. If something is not done soon, more and more family farms are going to be lost forever. The situation for most family farms is desperate. My husband and I live in Pennsylvania on a small family farm. It will soon be a Century Farm. But I am sure if the milk price continues the way it is, we are not going to be living on this farm. It would break my husband’s heart to have to sell this farm he has lived on all his life. We can’t even pay our bills with the price we are getting for our milk. My husband had sold two of his guns (and plans to sell more). I have sold an antique milk bottle I have had for years. I have been selling things off my walls and shelves to pay the bills. These are antiques that should have gone to our girls some day. How much are we expected to sacrifice for our way of life?
Please help the many dairy farmers who are hanging on to their farms and their way of life by a hair!
Dear Senator Winner:
My husband, Brian (third generation farmer) and I lease and operate a small dairy farm in Steuben County from his parents, which has been in the family since 1947. Our dream is to own the farm and keep it in the family for another generation to be handed down to our children. But with the current situation of extremely low milk prices, this is becoming harder every day.
The costs of operating the farm and what we are being paid are not balancing out. Recently, our most current milk check average $.90/gallon when in a store you pay anywhere from $3.89-$4.39/gallon. See the problem. It is not fair that we, the hard-working farmers, have to not only pay for our costs to operate, we also have to pay the cost to ship raw milk to the processing plants, pay for advertising, component values, fuel surcharges, coop dues and a CWT [Cooperatives Working Together] program.
We are all feeling the devastating effects of these low milk prices (farmers, feed mills, utility companies, lending institutions, agriculture supply distributors, vets, rural governments and the list goes on). I truly feel if something is not done soon, there will be more unemployment, farms/homes/land for sale, bank foreclosures, tax sales, animal cruelty cases, uninsured sick and malnourished children and elderly, and again this list goes on. Is this truly what our government wants?