Those of you doing the food shopping for your home should continue to buy milk and dairy products. They not only are good for you but are one of the best food buys in the grocery store.
At last week's Dairy Farmers of America Mideast Leadership meeting down in Fairlawn, predictions were made that farm prices for 2011 would be somewhat higher than they were in 2010.
That's good news for dairy farmers because they have needed better prices. The past couple of years have been tough for them with milk prices in 2009 that were not even enough for them to make any profit. Most operated at a loss. So higher prices will be a huge help this coming year.
At the same time, they will mean milk and dairy product prices in the grocery store will probably edge upward. Even with some price increases at the store, dairy products provide more nutrients for your food dollar than many foods.
There is another reason why higher farm milk prices are essential. That is higher feed costs caused by more exports of corn and soybeans and the use of more corn in ethanol.
With corn prices around $5.30 to $5.40 a bushel and soybean prices around $12.60, grain farmers have been happy. But dairy and other livestock farmers are not pleased, especially if they have to buy most of their grain. High feed prices can eat up any potential profit from the improved farm milk prices.
So as a consumer we all need to be aware of the complex system that goes into putting that gallon of milk on the store shelf. Many factors are involved.
Dairy Farmers of America is the largest farmer dairy marketing cooperative in the country. They market the farmer's milk through many outlets.
Dairy farmers at the meeting learned that domestic demand for milk and dairy products hasn't changed much. Increased exports have been a help, with 12 to 13 percent of U.S. milk being shipped abroad. Russia has been buying skim milk products and butter with China buying a lot of whole milk powder. Both of these markets can be uncertain and change quickly.
When we go to the store to buy our food, we want to be sure it is of high quality and healthy. DFA places a lot of emphasis on milk quality and works with dairy farmer members one-on-one if a quality problem crops up, which is rare. Members know that quality milk is in everyone's best interest.
Before milk is unloaded from a tank truck at the processing plant, samples are taken and quality testing is done. If even a hint of an antibiotic shows up in the testing, which is extremely accurate, that load of milk is rejected. Then samples that were taken at each farm are tested to see where the problem came from.
DFA has one of the finest and most accurate testing laboratories in the country near Medina. They do a lot of testing for other companies and the Food and Drug Administration. Dairy farmers meeting certain rigid quality standards can get paid a premium for their milk, an incentive to work hard at continued quality controls.
The importance of dairy farmers and cooperatives working together was stressed. One hot topic was a dairy market stabilization program to help avoid excessive milk supplies and keep milk prices from extreme ups and downs. If this program is started, it will need the cooperation of a majority of farmers and their cooperatives. DFA continues to work for the benefit of its members.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.