I spoke with Joel on Tuesday and despite being up well after midnight finishing chores the night before, he was right back at it again before dawn, milking his herd of 48 cows. During his morning chores, Joel prepared his remarks for both a morning radio interview and a teleconference call he was to take part in that afternoon to let the media know how the price of milk is affecting dairy farmers. Later in the day, Joel would appear live on another radio show. In between he planned to call a few senators to get an update on the status of legislation that could help farmers. In addition to his advocacy work, he had to get a field of corn planted and do the afternoon milking. But before he could plant his corn, Joel was waiting to hear whether the organic fertilizer he uses was in stock (he's been waiting for days). His corn couldn't wait another day so if it wasn't in stock, he was going to have to drive 80 miles out of his way to get it. It doesn't seem like a normal person could get all this accomplished in one day. But Joel would.
Joel told me about the stress he was under, calling it "more stress than a person should bear." In order to plant his corn, he had sold 11 heifers only to find out the check he received had bounced. And the milk payment from his co-op that was supposed to arrive Monday did not arrive. Which meant, as Joel put it, "you've got the bills at the mailbox, ready to go, but you can't send them because you're waiting on that milk check." Nonetheless, Joel was upbeat and when I told him that his energy level and positive attitude was an inspiration he shrugged it off saying, "I've been at it for 12 years now... We keep fighting the fight... We keep going. Because as I like to say, knowledge is power but only if you use it."
Joel is one of the thousands of dairy farmers fighting to stay in the business, despite milk prices that are less than half the cost of producing milk!
Joel will join other dairy farmers to stage a rally for fair pricing on Saturday, May 30, in Manchester, Iowa. We'll bring you more information about the rally next week, but click on the image to the right to see it (or click here for a PDF version).
To join Farm Aid in urging Secretary Vilsack to act immediately to keep dairy farmers on the land, producing good local and regional milk, click here.
To learn what your help means to Joel, see his note below. And, if you would like to make a gift to Farm Aid to support our work with Joel and other farmers to find a solution to the dairy crisis, please click here.
I didn't become a dairy farmer because I thought it would be easy. It's hard work, with a lot of early mornings and a lot of heavy lifting -- but it's work I love, and I'm thankful for it every day. If it were up to me, I'd never do anything else.
But there's a crisis facing American dairy farmers that threatens to drive me and 20,000 other farmers out of business in the next few months.
On average, dairy farmers are currently being paid less than half of what it costs us to produce our milk. Many farmers like me face the prospect of losing our land, our herds and our livelihoods -- and communities across the country will lose high-quality, locally-produced dairy.
Farm Aid is here to help, and for a lot of us, they're the last folks we have left to count on. Will you make a gift to Farm Aid today so they can keep on standing up for farmers like me?
I've milked cows now most of my life. I began on my parents' farm when I was 10 years old. In 1993, my parents' 30th wedding anniversary present was a sheriff auction on the courthouse steps where their farm was sold. I had to move my cows to an abandoned USDA/FSA farm I had purchased a few years before. In just a few days we had to install a milking system, bulk tank, and water stations before I could milk.
Those were dark days.
I now milk 48 cows and rotational graze my 160 acre farm in Kendall, Wisconsin, with my wife Laura and daughter Abby. Again we face dark days. It's just sad to know that even if you give 110% effort, at the end of the day you will not have earned enough money to pay the bills.
The milk pricing system needs to be changed, and Farm Aid and I need your help to do it.
Since the dairy crisis started, my friends at Farm Aid have told me that calls to their Farmer Resource Network hotline have shot way up. They're getting flooded with calls from family farmers desperate for some help. And Farm Aid is there -- connecting farmers to the resources they need to find a loan, save some of their herd or get in touch with those in the community that can lend a hand.
Plain and simple, a lot of us farmers are in a desperate situation. That's why I wanted to make sure you heard my story, so you'd know how much your support of Farm Aid matters.
Please, give whatever you can today and help support family farmers with your donation to Farm Aid. When you do, you'll be helping make sure there's a place for people like me, the family farmers who face the early mornings and do the heavy lifting so that you and your family can have good, healthy, locally-produced food.
Thank you for your support -- it makes all the difference in the world to us.
Wisconsin dairy farmer