Dairy prices concern hay industry
The milk industry is concerned about the recent drought, as the high price of hay in California makes it more expensive for dairy farms to buy hay and produce milk.
The federal government, which subsidizes California’s $9 billion-a-year dairy farm economy, says it is considering more funding for the livestock industry.
In addition to the drought, there have been complaints about declining herd numbers and a shortage of milk for export.
California’s milk production fell from 1,917,000 tons in 2009 to 1,636,000 tons in 2012, according to government figures.
That’s about 8 percent of the global average for the past 10 years.
“I do think a lot of people are concerned with the quality of milk out there, and that makes them a little worried about the price of milk at the wholesale and the retail level,” said Michael Siegel, a dairy farmer in Pilsen.
Siegel said it doesn’t seem to be the first time prices have been rising so quickly in California.
“We were all worried before, even when milk was cheaper. But here we are, and nobody’s complaining,” said Siegel, who is working to lower his prices so his family can keep dairy for generations.
California’s farmers say the drop in milk production is having serious consequences on their business, particularly in areas that are close to urban areas.
In Southern California, farms are cutting their milk and beef yields by 30 to 40 percent.
Some of that is because of the drought, according to David McClelland, the president of Siegel Farms in Glendale, a major agricultural producer.
“What happened last winter and early spring was very heavy rains, and the temperature was low enough that our grasses died, and we didn’t have enough milk to make a good living off that,” he said.
“The drought affects a lot of other important things too,” McClelland said. “The high prices mean we’ve got to do a lot of different things.
“Some will be pretty easy, while others I’d rather have people do on a regular basis. We may also have to put off paying the farmers and paying the farmers’ agents and people like us to be on this job for a little while longer,” he said.
In addition, his family has been taking out loans to make more money to buy milk, he said.
‘A huge sacrifice’
As a result, “our dairy farm has really been hit hard by this market downturn,” McClelland said.