The Land of Milk and Money: Dairy Cartel Revealed by NPR

Augie's Favorite: A Brown Swiss Cow

Augie's Favorite: A Brown Swiss Cow

National Public Radio aired a remarkable story this week called Independent Farmers Feel Squeezed by Milk Cartel. Although the title is an understatement, it does explain how dairy farmers are being milked and sucked dry by their only customer– a milk monoply. I think the same can be said of meat farmers– they are being butchered by the meat monolopies. Oh, what an opportunity for them to join the profitable, sustainable and natural farm industry that is rapidly growing– including the raw milk and herdshare revolution.

The story, in print and audio, explains how dairy cartels continue to prey on the farmer forcing many off their farm and losing their lifelong savings.

There is a special treat for you at the end of this post. Our Washington, D.C. Correspondent Kimberly Hartke was with NPR investigative reporters at a Virginia dairy and she provides her story here.

Now, for some extracts from the NPR expose, and then you can go to the full story, linked below:

Shorty Miller owns a small dairy in central Texas. Like nearly every other dairy farmer in America, she’s angry. Milk prices in the supermarket have come down only slightly, but the price she gets for the raw milk from her Holsteins has dropped nearly in half.

Borden milk is $3.99 a gallon. Oak Farms, which is bottled locally, is $3.49 a gallon, and that’s a sale price,” Miller says, pointing to cartons of milk in the dairy case at Brookshire’s Grocery in McGregor, Texas.

How long can Miller’s dairy hold out being squeezed the way it is?

“Depends on how long the bankers will work with us. If we want to put up everything we’ve worked 40 years for, we can hold out a little longer. But do we want to?” Miller says. “I don’t think the American public realizes where the milk comes from. Or what they’re going to do if we don’t have fresh milk.”

Joel Greeno runs a dairy farmer near Kendall, Wis., and also founded a medium-sized dairy co-op. An activist for family farms, Greeno is one of many dairy farmers who accuse Dairy Farmers of America is hurting independent farmers.

As the dairy industry concentrates into fewer and fewer players, some farmers complain it’s killing off independents and reducing options for consumers who want to buy locally.

“Dean Foods controls about 90 percent of the milk supply in Michigan, 80 percent in Massachusetts, over 80 percent in Tennessee and 70 percent in northern New Jersey. That’s not a free market.”

This is a must read and listen: Independent Farmers Feel Squeezed by Milk Cartel

It has been my opinion that the feds (FTC, SEC) should investigate to bring charges under RICO (that is the federal statutes called Racketeering, Influence and Corrupt Organizations act) against these food giants. In addition, it would be nice to see a class action suit brought against these companies seeking settlement for the lost farms and financial damaes lost by this anti-competitive and unethical behavior. I was delighted to hear this week that the Obama administration is beginning an investigation of these matters.

You will also want to read Kimberly Hartke’s comments at hartkeisonline which include:

I was visiting my local dairy farmer, Kitty Nicholas, when the NPR producer visted her farm. Kitty has a successful cow boarding operation, and also sells her milk for processing. A picture of one of her calves is the lead photo in the story, and you will note a striking resembleance to the calf on my blog’s masthead.  The story stopped short of talking about the raw milk market, but farmers should note that going independent of Big Milk may mean moving toward providing grass-fed, pure raw milk to your local consumers. The Farm-to-Consumer Foundation offers a Raw Milk Handbook, and a Cowshare/Goat Share University tele-seminar  to Farmers interested in exploring this possibility.

In Canada, where Michael Schmidt is in the battle of his life to preserve heritage dairy farming, he faces a similar monopoly, The Milk Marketing Board. Other dairymen beholden to the monopoly system are eagerly throwing Michael under the milk wagon, to preserve the status quo and maintain their control. Apparently, all over North America, family farms are on the border of extinction.  Only consumer activism and public awareness will turn this around! See the Campaign for Real Milk website to learn more!

Please share this with everyone you know, especially your local dairy farmer!

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7 responses to “The Land of Milk and Money: Dairy Cartel Revealed by NPR

  1. Moooove this story!

  2. Moooooving right along, Augie!!

  3. I figured out how to stumble this! Thanks Augie, let’s change the world with our blogging!

  4. It worked, Kimberly. I got 70 hits.

  5. Works for me. I speak regularly to the moovers and shakers of food in central Ohio. I own a grain farm and am in serious debt. The MORPC people have a consultant who is very aware of the situation. I like him. But the Governors food policy group. Now 2 or so years old is still writing reports and lecturing at conferences. The phrase “We should be do more for the local food movement” pops up a lot. Hope it’s soon.

  6. Well, well, what do you know?
    Farmers are not free to sell their products in a free market?
    I thought the idea of the free market included, naturally, farmers!
    How could it be otherwise?
    I know I am only 1 generation from the family farm but I never heard any of my relatives mention a cartel. I always assumed they just trucked the veggies and whatnot to town to market or set up a fruit stand on the road.

    What is sounds like is Communism American-style. It’s a monopoly and no one is given a choice, other ways to market your goods.
    And I know for a fact that a monopoly is illegal, federally illegal.
    The same laws that broke up the phone company into splinters, the same laws that are still on the books.
    If they control who the farmer can sell his products to, then they control the price of all farm goods sold to the retailers who then set the price we have to pay.
    The farmer gets screwed and so do we!
    The middlemen make out like bandits, which they obviously are!
    And I know that this situation didn’t just happen, but I do want to know how and why it came to be.
    No wonder my cousins have pretty much stopped farming and taken to sitting on the porch!
    Keeping farm profits too low and retail prices too high.
    Yes that is the American Way!
    Lying, cheating and stealing their way to prosperity!
    And as always, the people are on the losing end.

  7. I wish there was more I could do!

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