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Pro-Ag: Keep the premium for dairy farmers

By ARDEN TEWKSBURY
Posted 3/16/22

PENNSYLVANIA — On March 2, representatives from dairy groups testified before the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) about the premium paid to dairy farmers in the state. That premium is …

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Pro-Ag: Keep the premium for dairy farmers

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PENNSYLVANIA — On March 2, representatives from dairy groups testified before the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board (PMMB) about the premium paid to dairy farmers in the state. That premium is paid for milk produced, bottled and consumed in Pennsylvania.

Arden Tewksbury, manager of the Progressive Agriculture Organization, urged the members of the PMMB to maintain the present premium of $1 per cwt. (100 pounds of milk).

“The premium is still necessary,” Tewksbury said, “because neither the U.S. Congress nor the USDA has come to grips with the financial crisis facing the majority of our Pennsylvania dairy farmers.”

Tewksbury said that some had worked so hard, getting the premium started in the 1980s, and they don’t want to see it eliminated. He warned that if it is eliminated, we might never get it back again.

Pro-Ag members were concerned that the premium could be watered down after the demise of the Readington Farms premium. Tewksbury said that the beauty of the Readington Farms premium was that every penny of the premium went to the dairy farmers.

The Readington premium placed millions of dollars into the milk checks of Readington Farms’ producers, he added.

While Tewksbury thanked the Maryland/Virginia Co-op and Dairy Farmers of America for stepping in and marketing the majority of the milk from the former Readington producers—a big step for these producers— these same producers could now experience marketing costs instead of a reasonable premium.

Testifying in favor of continuing the $1 per cwt. premium was Matt Espenshade, a dairy farmer representing the Pennsylvania State Grange.  Espenshade testified because the escalating cost of production prices to dairy farmers necessitates the $1 premium.  

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Association of Dairy Cooperatives and the Pennsylvania Milk Dealers Association (PMDA) also testified in favor of the premium.

Chuck Turner testified for the PMDA, stating that they strongly favor the continuation of the $1 premium.  Mr. Turner bottles his own milk, sells it in Pennsylvania, collects the premium, and pays the premium to his fellow members.  

Two local representatives from Farm Bureaus in Bradford and surrounding counties testified that the premium be dropped down to zero.

In conclusion Tewksbury asked that the PMMB not throw the baby out with the bath water. He strongly feels that the co-ops must level with everyone and say how they are using the over-order premium.   If the co-ops would do this, it would negate a lot of criticism of the premium.  

Arden Tewksbury is the manager of Pro-Ag in Meshoppen, PA.

Click here for more on dairy farming from Arden Tewksbury.

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