Monday, April 16, 2012

Multigenerational dairy business suffers in West Weber

Ron Gibson grew up to become a fifth-generation dairy farmer, and he’s raising the sixth generation now. He’ll be raising and milking his cows with his sons as long as he can — but the way the industry has been going, it has been a stressful and uncertain time for him and many others

The cost of keeping the operation going keeps growing, but the market-determined price of the milk hasn’t. “It doesn’t matter how well I take care of my cows … if I put in (a full day’s work) or two hours of work,” he said, watching his son check on the pregnant cows at his West Weber farm.

The recession didn’t help, said Randy Parker, CEO of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. The value of the dollar dropped, making American dairy products much more expensive in global markets, he said.

Parker said every Utah dairy farm is family-owned, and some employ several generations of families. How to save the dairy farmers “is the million-dollar, or billion-dollar, question,” he said.

“The reality is, it’s very difficult right now, and there’s just not a good answer locally or nationally in terms of policy that can answer these difficult questions,” Parker said. However, he added, it does help that Congress is taking a look at the 80-year-old legislation governing the milk market to determine if it’s still adequately meeting the farmers’ needs. Standard Examiner