The drastic drop in milk prices paid to farmers over the past year has led to an unprecedented crisis for dairy farmers who, on average, are being paid less than half the cost of production, according to the nonprofit group Farm Aid.
Farm Aid has organized a petition of secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack to take action by setting a floor price for milk that reflects the cost of production. Farm Aid will deliver the petition to Vilsack on June 2, the group said.
Farmers across the country are facing increasing levels of economic distress, as commodities prices have fallen off from last year and credit dried up, keeping farmers from buying farm equipment and hurting their ability to stay on their farms.
"Setting a fair price for milk won't fix all the problems that led to the current crisis, but it may be the only way to keep thousands of dairy farmers on their farms this year," said Farm Aid board member Willie Nelson.
Dairy farmers have been hit hard by record high feed and fuel costs while the price of milk paid to farmers by processors collapsed.
The top dairy processors have increased their earnings this quarter from the same period last year by shorting the farmers, Farm Aid said.