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It's Your Turn: Readers react to plight of dairy farmers

Editor's note: With Labor Day weekend here, we thought this "Your Turn" — which offers support for hardworking dairy farmers — would be appropriate. The comments are from our Facebook readers in reaction to an Aug. 26 online story (published in our Aug. 29 print issue), "With paltry dairy prices, Minnesota farmer prepares to milk his cows one last time." It told the story of a Henning farmer, Steve Cordes, who is getting out of the dairy business after 30 years. The story notes that in the last 18 years, 42,000 dairy farmers nationwide have called it quits.

Arlene Pieske: It's so sad that the poor dairyman can't get a good price for their milk nowadays. It takes a special person to be a dairyman now. All of the hard work you have to do and the prices of feed, vet bills, etc. I know we were dairy farmers — up at 4:00 a.m., get the cows milked, clean the barn, feed the cattle, then getting hay up without rain and it keeps on going. Sad day when you have to sell off your pet cows.

Lisa Marie: This is so sad/bad for what's coming next in this world. Local stores can't make it. We as a community/America need to speak and change our shopping. Everything easy to buy online has changed the local economy.

Shantelle Roberts: Factories taking over and that's the main cause of it. Too many hormones put into cows and it affects our health. Chemicals in everything. It's greed. Companies can get their products cheaper from these big chains. I feel for our local farmers and our community that needs this business to survive. Can this guy not sell to local grocery stores anymore? Or are the prices too high? It's obvious he's retiring since he can't compete with 10,000 cows at mega farms. He said he's going to be a sheep farmer now. At least he still has his pride but sad all around.

Anna Petro: No. Even extremely large dairy operations aren't likely to sell directly to local stores. It's far more complicated than that. Selling any milk product other than literally raw milk (which I believe is actually illegal) would require pasteurizing, skimming, separating, bottling, labeling and testing equipment, time for deliveries, staffing to do all of the previously mentioned processes etc. As it is now, dairy companies pick up raw milk from farms in bulk trucks and bring it back to processing facilities where it's made into cream, half & half, whole, 1-2% and skim milk, butter, cheese, etc. If you want to support your local dairy farmers, ask who they milk for and what products that company produces. Example: Someone I went to high school with is a dairy farmer and their milk is used in Bongards' products, so I've found myself buying more of that at the grocery store.

Brian Hedstrom: I am of the understanding that the government sets milk prices.

Steph-Kevin Krohnfeldt: Anna! You are a gem! Thank you for that explanation, and for your support! My family's (Douglas County dairy farm) milk goes directly to Bongards' cheese products (made in Minnesota too). But milk products from our milk company (First District) go into Sargento's cheese, Mars milk chocolate items, Doritos nacho cheese flavoring, and Hershey milk chocolate items. You can support your local dairy farms by first stopping to shake their hand and let them know you're behind them. Ask them where their milk is sold to and which products you can buy to keep them in business. A listening ear and a cup of coffee (with cream, heehee) go a long long way in supporting folks! Thank you so much!

Shantelle Roberts: I never knew that! Thanks for explaining the process to me. I'm glad Millerville Creamery is still doing OK. I love their butter!

Anna Petro: My heart goes out to this farmer. I was 13 when my dad sold our cows and ended the multi-generation dairy operation. It was by far the right decision for our family, but it was an extremely hard day, week, month, etc. These farmers quite literally put blood sweat and tears into their operations and they deserve, at the very least, our appreciation. A hand shake to you sir, and every dairy farmer trying to make it work in today's market.

Dani Wilke: My heart breaks for every small dairy left out there knowing the struggle they are going through. It's not just dairy either. Small grain farmers and struggling through low crop prices as well. These men, women and children still sticking to their family's legacy are by no means compensated for the crazy amount of work that goes into being a farmer. I hope I'm lucky enough to one day be the owner of a farm. Family pride!