As farmers, we are all very good at what we do. We are experts in the art of milking cows and growing crops to feed our cows. I often mention, on our farm tours, that today’s dairy farmers are not milking old world cows. Grandpa and Grandma’s cows were improved with every new generation. Dairy farmers have the best animals with better genetics than ever before. And with that, we all have more milk in our bulk tanks. That sounds great, something to cheer for, except it is not. Oversupply of milk is driving milk prices down for every dairy farmer.
    The coronavirus pandemic has opened many eyes in the dairy industry. With the closing of restaurants, universities and schools, our dairy products had nowhere to go. Cheese is a huge part of Wisconsin milk processing. The many companies had to reinvent products that were going out of the cheese factories wholesale. The cheese needed new packaging, products and consumers to pick it up at the grocery store. It took a while for that to happen, and a lot of milk was disposed of. That is a nice way to say milk got dumped into our manure pits.
    When I explain this to visitors who come to our farm, they cannot imagine how painful it is for dairy farmers to see milk being thrown away. I can encourage every single person to drink more milk, eat more cheese and have two scoops of ice cream to keep the cows in Wisconsin milking, but that is not realistic. We cannot eat or drink our way out of the surplus milk we are creating.
    Farmers are so efficient and productive that it isn’t just dairy that has a hard time controlling our production; it is all commodities. Corn, soybean, you name whatever we can grow. When farmers go to work, they do the best they can, and they increase production. More corn will mean more money. More money will help pay off debts on the loans we all have.
    The example I used on my tour: The corn price is over $5 per bushel, and any farmers who have corn in storage are making good money. All farmers are watching the markets and everyone wants to make more money. I can be certain that with the higher price, more farmers will plant more corn this spring. Meanwhile, corn and soybeans are tight in supply. With this high price, it leaves even less profit margins for dairy families. Next fall, the surplus supply of corn will drop the price back down to below breakeven for all of us. It’s an up and down rollercoaster, but we’ve had more down years then up lately.
    My husband, Duane, got his first milk check in 1980 at $14.86 per hundredweight. We received our recent milk check at $14.80. Over 40 years of dairy farming and we were paid the same amount. Except back then, he was milking 50 cows, and today we are milking 240 cows. There is a dairy crisis going on in the United States, and it has to do with extra milk with no place to go.
    As I read through the last Dairy Star, I noticed many comments on farmers speaking in favor of controlling our dairy supply. They are interested in finding a way to stabilize our markets with mechanisms that will help every farmer get more money for the milk their cows are producing. We work too hard every day. We all need to work to find solutions to make a comfortable living.
    If you are able, reach out to your local farm organization, be it Farmers Union or Farm Bureau. Dairy committees are trying to organize options available to help dairy farmers. This oversupply issue will require help from the legislature. Our representatives will need to hear our concerns. We need our voices to be heard. We are serious about the problem of overproduction in our dairy industry.
    Tina Hinchley, and her husband,  Duane, daughter Anna, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  The Hinchley’s have been hosting farm tour for over 25 years.