Cows lose their jobs as milk prices drop
By Scott Calvert • THE BALTIMORE SUN • March 3, 2009
EASTON, Md. — As his 100 dairy cows lumbered over for their Monday afternoon milking, farmer Eric Foster pondered his sudden misfortune. Those Holsteins and Jerseys, profit machines during a recent milk boom, are now such money losers that he is selling part of his herd and fears he might have to quit the business altogether.
It is not the cows' fault. The problem is the plummeting wholesale price of milk. It has fallen more than 40 percent in six months, driven down by disparate factors such as better rains in Australia, a tainted-milk scare in China and the global economic slowdown.
This unlikely combination of forces has hit Foster's milking parlor and other dairy operators with a vengeance. After soaring in 2007 and remaining high in much of 2008, milk prices paid to farmers have collapsed and are expected to remain dismal, even as feed and fuel stay fairly costly.
Some dairy farmers have shut down. Others, like Foster, are trying to hang on. He hopes a federal subsidy will help him endure thousands of dollars in monthly losses until the market turns.
Unemployment among cows is rising. I noticed that the price of a gallon of milk had dropped yesterday (along with the stock market!)