Maine Today reports that Maine's farmers couldn't come up with a worse situation in their worst dreams.
(emphasis mine) [my comment]
Rain washing away farmers' hopes for harvesting hay, corn
As milk prices plunge, many dairy farmers face the added financial burden of having to buy feed.
By SHARON KILEY MACK Bangor Daily News July 25, 2009
CLINTON — Farmers are watching their hay crops being ruined and their feed corn shrivel as rain continues to plague Maine's farming industry.
"Everything is just devastated," Dr. Rick Kersbergen of the Waldo County Cooperative Extension said Friday.
Kersbergen is a grass and fodder crop expert and maintains the state "hay directory" for producers looking to market their hay and for livestock farmers looking to purchase hay.
Hay and corn in the fields are at the stage they would be at the end of June. "But it's the end of July," Kersbergen said.
"Farmers are now looking to out-of-state suppliers because there is no hay out there for sale at this point," he said. "The farmers are scared."
This has been a bad year for dairy farmers: Milk prices have plummeted and rain has prevented them from getting onto their fields to harvest hay. Fertilizer they applied simply washed away in the rain.
The longer hay grows without a cutting, the poorer the nutritional quality and the more money farmers will spend this winter to supplement it. Cornfields are rotting without enough sun or heat to ripen the plants.
"The season is lost," Julie Marie Bickford of the Maine Dairy Industry Association said Friday. "With milk prices so low and this feed disaster on top of it, farmers are like deer in the headlights."
As bad as the feed shortage is for dairy farms, she said, the horse industry is in even worse straits. "Dairy farmers may be able to salvage some round bales, but those who use dry hay, like the horse industry, are worse off. This crisis hurts beyond just dairy."
Hay and corn are critical components of livestock feed, Bickford said. "This stunted corn and alfalfa is forcing farmers to purchase grain and feeds. That is a very bad situation. Prices are extremely high because of the Midwest floods earlier this year. Maine's farmers couldn't come up with a worse situation in their worst dreams."
On Thursday, a 75-year-old former dairy farmer visited the Wright Place in Clinton. He recalled delivering glass bottles of milk and told Brian Wright that he never remembered a rainier summer.
"This is unreal," Wright said. He cut back from 700 acres of feed corn to 600 acres to trim his budget this year, and now he may not get to harvest much of that.
"All the nutrients have washed away. That corn is not looking well," he said. "It's a double whammy: the low price of milk and now this rain."
Herkimer Telegram reports that dairy farmers want answers from politicians.
Dairy farmers want answers from politicians
By David Robinson
Fri Aug 14, 2009, 08:13 PM EDT
WEST WINFIELD - A panel of political representatives and aides sat for over three hours at a rally Friday in Mount Markham Middle School gym as over 200 upstate New York dairy farmers pleaded for action on a range of issues crippling their industry.
One after another dairy farmers and others involved in the industry took a microphone to berate county, state and federal representatives from throughout the region.
Some were brought to tears describing their inability to make a living, a few simply screamed in frustration and others demanded answers. But the dire situation facing the men and women speaking was painfully clear.
"We are in a disaster," declared Ken Dibbell, of Chenango County.
Everything from free trade to transportation costs were mentioned as contributing factors, though a discrepancy between production costs and pricing was at the forefront.
The cost per hundredweight of milk is at $12 based on current pricing formula, according to rally organizers from Progressive Agriculture Organization.
A pricing floor that could maintain the farmers is at least $18, Arden Tewksbury, from Pennsylvania and manager of Pro-Ag. Moreover, Pro-Ag is advocating for federal legislation that would raise the price to $22.46, he added.
Upwards of 15 in attendance provided personal accounts of a daily struggle to provide for their families.
"The people who feed the nation can't feed themselves," Gretchen Maine, a dairy farmer from Waterville, "what's wrong this picture."
Tewksbury presented the bill backed by Pro-Ag, which Pennsylvania's Senators Arlen Specter and Bill Casey introduced, as "the answer." He urged the dairy farmers to get behind the bill, which raised and better regulated milk prices in the future.
The state commissioner of Agriculture, Patrick Hooker, said there's no way the legislation will pass before 2010, however. And "it's going to be a long shot," he added.
Hooker proposed an amendment to appropriations that called for $350 million for the dairy industry as "the only game in town." Having already passed the Senate, it still needs to pass Congress, he explained; and the funds could provide more immediate relief by the fall.
The time frames for both solutions seemed in contrast from farmers need for help, with many emotionally explaining they have either already abandon businesses or are on the brink.
"I don't think they get the message yet," Tewksbury said, referring politicians unaware of the uncharacteristic display of emotions from prideful farmers. They don't have until 2010. They have the next couple of months to decide if they can stay in business, he said.
Syracuse.com reports that central New York counties named to ag disaster area.
York counties named to ag disaster area
By Debra J. Groom / The Post-Standard
October 22, 2009, 12:49PM
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency has designated Oswego, Dutchess, Lewis, Monroe, Ontario, Otsego, Seneca, Suffolk, Ulster, Washington and Wayne counties as ag disaster areas due to excessive rain and hail on May 1 and beyond.
Also named in the declaration because they are contiguous counties are Cayuga, Onondaga, Madison, Oneida, Chenango, Columbia, Delaware, Essex, Genesee, Greene, Herkimer, Jefferson, Livingston, Montgomery, Nassau, Orange, Orleans, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schuyler, St. Lawrence, Steuben, Sullivan, Tompkins, Warren and Yates counties.
All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas Oct. 19, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency.
I have updated yesterday's graphic showing counties designated as disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (data from the USDA. See http://www.fema.gov/dhsusda/searchState.do). As you can see, the entire State of Maine and most of New York have been declared agricultural disaster areas.
(Click on image to see full size)
My reaction: It isn't just Midwest farmers who are in trouble. The situation is pretty depressing.