Tues., Apr. 25, 2017
2 Chronicles 15:4 – But when they were in trouble, they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel. They looked for him and found him.
Early in April, about 75 Wisconsin dairy farms received a letter from their milk processor. As of May 1, the milk processor will no longer purchase milk from their dairy operation. They have to find another place to sell their milk within 30 days.
Let me help us understanding the challenge these dairy producers face. Most dairy operations have milk picked-up from their farm and delivered to the milk processor every day. On-farm storage is extremely limited. Milk must be moved within 24- or 48-hours. Because milk is perishable, milk not processed within a few days cannot be marketed. Most Wisconsin dairy processors are currently running at or over 100% capacity. There is no demand for additional milk in Wisconsin and neighboring states right now. Finding another processor for the milk is literally more daunting than trying to find a needle in a haystack.
The cows, well, they can’t just go on “vacation.” They aren’t a factory that can be stopped and started at will. For most dairy operations, the majority of a farm’s income is derived from the sale of milk. Over the past year, the farm gate milk price paid has been low. Missing even one milk check is devastating. Do you see the very difficult pickle these dairy operations are in, with very limited options and alternatives?
The ag media has reported that about half of the dairy farms who received the letter have found another processor. This is good news! But what about the other folks who do not know where their milk will go next Monday, other than down the drain?
I grew-up on a Wisconsin dairy farm and was very actively involved in the day-to-day operation. I have spent more time professionally and personally involved in the dairy industry than I have as a pastor. I’ve milked cows more times than I’ve given sermons. My husband says, given the choice, I would be milking a herd of dairy cows today rather than trying to shepherd a flock of sometimes unwieldy sheep. I continue to have a part-time job in the dairy industry and spend at least one day a week helping dairy operations around the world.
This situation is very close to my heart. I know the difficulty of saying “good-bye” to a herd of cows you’ve grown to love, respect and treat like family. I’ve experienced the daily anxiety of trying to keep a dairy operation going while caring for a family. I’ve fielded phone calls and spoken with dairy producers who could not afford Christmas presents for their children and did not know where to turn for help.
The series of events that led up to this predicament are long and varied. The problem didn’t happen overnight. Long-term solutions are even more daunting. Industry folks have worked tirelessly the last few weeks exploring possible short-term and long-term remedies.
Yet, I keep wondering what I can do. I don’t own a dairy processing facility. If I can’t affect the processing end of the equation, what can I do to help increase dairy product consumption?
Recently, a suggestion surfaced of one way we can help. We can find ways to increase consumer dairy product consumption by 5 dairy products. Drink 5 gallons of milk. Eat 5 gallons of ice cream. Incorporate 5 lbs. of cheese into cooking. Use 5 lbs. of butter for baking.
This, I can do. It’s not realistic for Rick and I to consumer 5 more lbs. or gallons of dairy products in the next week. We’re just two people. But I can encourage others. So, I went to the grocery store and purchased more than 10 lbs. of sliced cheese and donated it to the local food pantry. During food distribution on Tues. and Thurs. this week, I’m optimistic 10+ families will choose sliced cheese for sandwiches or to make grilled cheeses for supper. Maybe this cheese will allow kids to have cheese and crackers as an after-school snack. Or a quick snack for on-the-go families. I pray some families will think the unusual availability of cheese is something that will benefit their families.
Wisconsin is not the only state dealing with this dilemma. Increasing consumption of dairy products and alleviating some of the current surplus of U.S. dairy products WILL help the entire American dairy industry.
Why am I encouraging us to increase dairy product consumption this week? Because it’s a way to assist families whose livelihood is being challenged. Think of this as another way of serving our neighbor in need. This neighbor just needs a place to market their milk.
For the dairy families currently affected and those who may in the near future face the challenge of no market for their milk: I pray you can turn to the Lord and find the Lord. Unfortunately, the Lord does not remove all the challenges in our lives. What the Lord does is journey with us as we navigate life’s pot holes and road blocks. The Lord wants to take this journey with you. For this, I thank the Lord. Please invite the Lord to join you in your journey.
Lord God – today, we lift up those operations and families who are dedicated to helping feed the people of this country and those around the world. As we struggle with a food distribution challenge, be with those who are deeply affected with the current situation. Bring forth wisdom with ideas and options. In these days of trouble, hold those affected in the cup of your hand and bring them your comfort and peace. Amen.
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