JAVA CENTER, NY– Forty five-year-old Pat McCormick loves dairy farming.
“I just like being outside with the animals and I like working for myself. I like knowing I’m providing food for people. It’s a very satisfying feeling,” says McCormick.
But 2018 may be the last year for the family dairy farm which has been in the McCormick family for seven generations.
“We’re currently not making money. We’re losing money every day we have the doors open,” says McCormick.”
He’s not alone.
Dairy farmers across the country are under enormous financial pressure. Milk prices have been low and continue to drop. The low prices are a product of a classic supply and demand imbalance.
Agriculture science has enabled farmers to get more and more milk out of every cow. Even though the number of cows in New York State has been relatively flat since 2014, last year Empire State dairy farmers has produced an additional billion pounds of milk.
Couple that with Americans diminishing appetite for milk and other dairy products. Figures from the US Department of Agriculture show people in the US are eating less ice cream and a lot less milk. Milk consumption is down almost 22% since 2000.
And soon, the annual bloom of milk production is anticipated.
“During the spring, we get a flush of milk and it’s a cyclical pattern. It’s typical, but with low prices it can force milk prices down a little bit more,” says Elizabeth Wollers, Associate Director of Public Policy for New York Farm Bureau.
“Some guys just aren’t gonna make it,” says South Wales dairy farmer Jeff Simons.
Simons says at one time there were more than a dozen working dairy farms nearby. Now, he counts four.
“I think we can survive. I’m not gonna say we’re gonna prosper,” says Simons when asked about what his plans are.
Like most dairy farmers, McCormick is cutting every corner he can find. He let go two workers, meaning there will be more work for him to do now. New equipment purchases are not in his plans. McCormick will have to find a way to another year out of what he has.
He admits, by year’s end, he’ll have to think long and hard at whether it’s worth it to hang in there another year.
McCormick says, “It’s extremely difficult especially knowing the blood, sweat and tears that my parents have put into it, my grandparents put in the farm and to know we might be getting to that point where we say to ourselves, ‘Why do we want to keep doing this?’ Even though we love doing it.”
By: Steve Brown