I often use the word “sustainable” while talking to the visitors at our farm. It is a word that gets used all through the media, and I feel there are many meanings for the word. We had an audit by students from UW Madison, and they evaluated our social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
    We are more sustainable now with having a manure pit under our barn. Hauling manure or drag-lining it from below the cows once a year is much better than hauling daily in diverse weather conditions. We are injecting it into the soil, directly from our storage unit, which is covered by a roof. The injection method conserves the nutrients in the manure. There is no runoff, no evaporation and it will be fully utilized by the future crops that are going to be grown.
    Having cover crops and erosion strips helps sustain the environment around our farm.  It retains the top soil and prevents farm chemicals and nutrients from leaching into the creeks and lakes. Our tractors have diesel exhaust fluid systems to help our tractors burn fuel cleaner to not contaminate the environment with harmful emissions.
    We have taken advantage of the LED energy saving lights, variable speed drives on milk equipment and ventilation systems to be energy efficient. We are doing everything we can to do our part to protect the environment where we live along side our neighbors and community.
    Socially, we are promoting, posting and hosting tours to educate other about where their food comes from. We participate in interviews and tell the story of agriculture to everyone to hear loud and clear. Food, fiber, and fuel. With every breath I take, I believe we are so much better farmers now in 2019 than ever before.
    We have better genetics, better technology, are better with the environment and more socially sustainable. But that is not where the problem lies. Farmers have been struggling for many years with being economically sustainable. The United States is losing so many family farms daily. The cost to farm today is higher than ever. All we put into our farms to make them better to feed the cows better, to house the animals better, take better care of the land, water and air, all costs us money, annually a 5% increase for inputs.
    Every business passes on its cost, except farmers. Businesses require a return on their investment to be economically sustainable. Why is it that farming in 2019 is so hard to make a living? The dairy industry has taken hit after hit of low milk prices. The 2018 average Class III milk price was $14.61, compared to $16.16 in 2017, which was inadequate. This year has many farmers on the edge with the average milk price so far at $15.58 per cwt.
    The rhetoric out of Washington says there is support for farmers, but in actuality, we have been losing exports and markets to the rest of the world. We want free markets, and we don’t want handouts.
    As a dairy industry heading into 2019, our cows are simply better than ever. These cows have kept the milk volume up, even with fewer farms, and fewer cows. We have been dealing with surplus milk without an export market to soak it up. We are all suffering when we should be doing much better with all we have invested into our farms.
    How do we become more economically sustainable? What options do we have to keep farmers farming? Do we need to look deeper into supply management? Can we farmers work together to become better managers by limiting our production so we can manage our milk?
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.