Bernie Sanders in Intro to Milk Money, by Bernie Sanders

On Budget & Economy: Dairy price fluctuations help no one but speculators

Vermont's rural communities and its working landscape were formed by dairy farms. Its rural communities, and its working landscape, continue to be shaped by dairy farms today.

Farms, unlike businesses that can slow down or increase production, often face a stark choice: when prices drop, and loans are called in, they all too frequently must be sold. And then, suddenly, there is not enough milk, and the price of cheese and milk to consumers rises rapidly. These huge fluctuations help no one but speculators--not consumers, not dairy-based businesses, not tractor salesmen--and they particularly do not help or sustain farmers.

The best policy is to develop a system of supply management, so that dairy farmers never severely overproduce or underproduce, thereby stabilizing prices and ensuring a sufficient amount of high-quality dairy products for our country.

Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by K. Kardashian, p. vii-viii Oct 9, 2012

On Corporations: Investigate huge dairy processors for anti-trust violations

The huge dairy processors, such as Dean Foods and Dairy Farmers of America, to my mind siphon off most of the money from dairy. When the price of milk drops, prices to consumers don't drop: the middlemen and the retailers get wealthy. Farmers, especially modest-size family farms like those we have in Vermont, get little. The price of and demand for milk today is overly controlled by just a few uncompetitive corporate giants, most often through speculation on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Department of Justice, at my request, has investigated Dean Foods for antitrust violations. Dean Foods has paid settlements to farmers to resolve the legal situation, but in my view the virtual monopoly over milk continues. There is something very wrong when large processors reap large profits, and family farmers--who can barely survive, or must sell their farms.
Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by Kirk Kardashian, p. x-xi Oct 9, 2012

On Corporations: Launch anti-trust investigation of Dean Foods

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) organized a field hearing titled "The State of Competition and Prospects for Sustainability in the Northeast Dairy Industry." Leahy noted, "There has been a breakdown in competition. Vermont dairy farmers are not getting their fair share of the retail price of milk, but the corporate processors rake in profits."

Bernie Sanders [was] the first one to push to launch an antitrust investigation of Dean Foods. He opened with a striking fact: one company, the milk processor Dean Foods, controls at least 70% of the milk market in the triangle between Michigan, Florida and New England. He advanced with more numbers: in the last year, milk prices to farmers had dropped from $19 per hundredweight to just $11. Then he came in with the knockout blow: "Meanwhile, Dean Foods reported $76.2 million in profits for the first quarter of 2009, up 147% from the first quarter of 2008. Is there anybody in this room who doesn't see a connection between those facts? Nobody raised a hand.

Source: Sanders Intro to "Milk Money", by Kirk Kardashian, p.186 Oct 9, 2012

On Environment: Sophisticated equipment transformed farms to overproduction

Milk overproduction is caused by to many cows being milked, but it also has to do with dramatic changes that have transformed dairy farms over the past decades. How is it that individual cows today produce much more milk than cows in the past? Science and breeding have transformed a whole sector of farming. I feel sure that similar techniques in fruit, grain, and vegetable farming, techniques having to do with cross-pollination and grafting and other procedures, mirror the development of our current generation of dairy cows and their great productivity. Similarly, the development of automated milking machines is paralleled by the use of increasingly sophisticated equipment in other types of farming.
Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by Kirk Kardashian, p. ix Oct 9, 2012

On Environment: Very large farms raise questions about animal cruelty

And the cows [on small farms]? Some are contended. I have been on many dairy farms in Vermont where the cows were cared for almost as if they were part of the farmer's family. VT's Bovine Practitioner of the Year says; "The majority of farmers I work with are farmers because they love their animals. They treat them well." I think those words ring true for the many Vermont famers I have met. They are wonderful people. But very large farms, and veal operations, can raise questions about animal cruelty.
Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by Kirk Kardashian, p. x Oct 9, 2012

On Government Reform: Best dairy policy is USDA board's supply management

The best policy is to develop a system of supply management. It is my hope that we in Washington can produce legislation that will give farmers tools to slow the growth of their herds when milk prices are high--yes, there are profits to be made in the short term, but the slightly longer term result is always an oversupply of milk and milk prices that go into free-fall. Supply management curbs excessive growth of dairy herds when prices are high. And when the prices are low, a modest cushion for farmers can provide protection against a hard landing. Under legislation I proposed, the USDA, working with dairy farmers on a producer board, would set a rate for how much farmers could boost production according to US demand. I think it makes sense that, if we can manage supply so that it is never too high or too low, huge price swings should disappear. And our family farmers will live with a security--that hard work and good farming will bring reasonable returns--that eludes them today.
Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by K. Kardashian, p. viii-ix Oct 9, 2012

On Immigration: Immigrant labor should be treated as valuable, but are not

Negative aspects of 21st century farming: water and air pollution, the hazards of industrial agriculture (farms in California or Idaho or New Mexico can exceed 10,00 cows), and milk that is perhaps not as healthful as that obtained from pasture-grazed animals. The labor situation on dairy farms, which are more and more dependent on immigrant labor from Mexico and Central America. Some of these immigrants are treated as the valuable laborers they are; others, unfortunately and tragically, are not.
Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by Kirk Kardashian, p. ix-x Oct 9, 2012

On Immigration: Include dairy in H2A visas (temporary agricultural workers)

The H2-A agricultural visa program is deficient in many ways, but most acutely for dairy farmers in that it applies only to seasonal workers, such as the migrant apple pickers that swarm Washington State during the harvest and then go home when the trees are bare. But, obviously, cows need to be milked all year long, so dairy farmers can't benefit from this program. S.358, the "H2-A Improvement Act," attempts a simple fix by adding sheepherders, goat-herders, and dairy workers to the list of "temporary agricultural workers" that H2-A originally blessed with legal status.

Dairy farmer's main beef with the H2-A program is that it's too cumbersome. It requires employers to file multiple applications with state and federal labor offices and they must predict sometimes years in advance how many workers they will need. Furthermore, the law requires employers to show that they put in good faith effort to recruit American workers before applying for visas for immigrant labor.

Source: Sanders Intro to "Milk Money", by Kirk Kardashian, p.156-7 Oct 9, 2012

The above quotations are from Milk Money
Cash, Cows, and the Death of the American Dairy Farm

by Kirk Kardashian (Introduction by Bernie Sanders)
Click here for other excerpts from Milk Money
Cash, Cows, and the Death of the American Dairy Farm

by Kirk Kardashian (Introduction by Bernie Sanders)
Click here for other excerpts by Bernie Sanders.
Click here for a profile of Bernie Sanders.
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