Falling Milk Prices Slash Profits For Dairy Farmers

SPOKANE — Washington’s dairy farmers say they are facing a crisis. The price they’re being paid for their cow’s milk has collapsed.

The Washington Dairy Products Commission says there is no profit in the dairy farming business right now.

The United States is exporting far fewer dairy products than it has in the past creating more of a supply and not enough demand for the milk.

The cows at Simonson Dairy north of Spokane are producing the same amount of milk as they did last year, but the Simonson’s income has been slashed in half.

“This is a way of life for us,” said farmer Kima Simonson. “It’s a great place for family.”

Every morning and every night about 90 cows make their way in and out of the Simonson’s Old Fashion Milk Parlor. But right now there’s no money in their milk.

“We really need some relief, we need a fair price for our milk,” said Kima.

In fact, the milk costs more to produce than Kima and her family make from it’s sale.

“We’ve never seen anything like this ever, it’s new territory for us, for all of us,” she said.

According to the Washington Dairy Commission, dairy farmers were paid $17 for a hundred pounds of milk last February. This February the price tumbled to $9.31.

“Do the math! We’ve lost almost half of our income,” exclaimed Kima.

The price is so low that some California dairy farmers have started selling their cows for their beef. They say the cows are worth more dead than alive.

Simonson says she’s heard of several Washington dairy farmers considering bankruptcy, but she’s determined to stay afloat.

“We’re economizing everywhere we can,” she said.

In order to survive the prices, Simonson’s have had to tap into their hard-earned savings. According to them, the future is scary for all dairy farms unless something is done.

“We need something to live on,” said Kima.

In February 2009, dairy farmers from across the state went to Olympia asking legislators to put a minimum limit on the price of milk. Farmers say it will take cooperation by state and federal governments, as well as neighboring states to get a floor on the price of milk.

Another problem is that middlemen are soaking up the money. The National Milk Producers Federation says on average dairy farmers only get thirty cents of every dollar spent on milk.