Freestall
October 11, 2019

Opinion: We Owe It To Each Other To Support All Kinds of Dairies

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Let’s have a heart to heart, you and me. The outside forces pitting farmers against farmers to drive an agenda are leading to the demise of the dairy industry.

I grew up on what is described, by all standards, as a small cow/calf ranch. My great grandfather bought the section of land when he came to America in 1903. On that land, our family has milked cows, raised hogs and eventually settled on raising commercial beef cows. It was a great childhood and work our family loved, but it didn’t generate enough income for either of my parents to farm full time. 

Fast forward to today. My husband and I have what would be considered by most to be a large farm. We milk around 1,000 sheep and goats. Still, the economics of starting a dairy have meant for the past five years we’ve not taken a steady paycheck from the dairy. Instead I’ve worked full time, and we’ve reinvested any and all profits back into the business. 

laca dairy

In our extended family, there are four dairies including ours, ranging from 500 cows to 2,500 cows. And you know what? While they have their individual challenges, at the end of the day the four operations share numerous similarities. 

They are all owned by people who fill grandma’s house on holidays, enjoy spending time in the mountains, volunteer in the community and prefer hand-cranked ice cream regardless of the season. All four farms provide dozens of full-time and seasonal jobs to members of our community, not to mention rely on the services of plumbers, electricians, mechanics, local hardware and lumber stores and other farmers. 

In the words of my two-year-old, who notices every time we match, “Same.”  

There’s nothing special about these four farms, except the same things that make every dairy farm across the country special. 

Every dairy farm in America supports its local community. Every dairy farm provides safe, wholesome milk for all Americans to enjoy. Every dairy farm has struggled financially the past five years, regardless of size. 

If you and I can’t agree that dairy farms in America are great, no matter the size, how will we ever convince consumers they are? 

Special interest groups, such as HSUS, continue to push the idea the only reason “small” farms are going out of business is because “large” farms stole their markets. That’s simply not true. 

I was in the room when a reporter, who already had his story drafted, hammered Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue about small farms going out of business. I then watched as that same reporter weaved the Secretary’s words into his preconceived narrative. 

You need to know the Secretary did not say small dairy farms will have to “get big or get out.”

You also need to know a reporter from the same news organization wrote the recent article about DMI salaries. The reporter did not include any answers to the dozens of questions DMI responded to via email. Nor did he take up Tom Gallagher’s offer for a phone interview before the story was released. He did, however, include an interview with a former dairy farmer who serves on a HSUS board. Remember what I said about an agenda?

Do me a favor, would you? Let’s evaluate the facts and draw our own conclusions. Let’s be smart – as well as compassionate – and not allow the forces of HSUS to divide our industry. We owe it to each other.

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