By ARDEN TEWKSBURY
For the Capital Press
The petition drive calling for a national milk hearing to establish fair raw milk prices for all dairy farmers is growing by leaps and bounds. The original petition drive originated with Peter Hardin, editor of the Milkweed.
We certainly encourage all dairy farmers to sign a petition and send it to Dana Coale, deputy administrator of USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Dairy Programs, in Washington, D.C.
There is no reason the USDA should not hold the hearing. Prices paid to dairy farmers have been running at least $6-$8 per hundredweight below the national average cost of production. Many costs are escalating to all dairy farmers, but the accelerated cost of grain, hay and feed costs are leading the way.
We have been clamoring for years that the dairy farmers' costs of production must be brought into a pricing formula for all dairy farmers. Certainly the time is ripe for this milk hearing to be held. Anything less than a hearing that will allow the John Doe dairy farmers a chance to testify is totally unacceptable.
According to the petition, the secretary of agriculture has the authority under section 608(c)18 of the enabling language for federal milk orders to act upon evidence presented at a hearing to adjust regional farm milk prices when according to law, the parity prices for such commodities are not reasonable.
Without any reservation, prices paid to dairy farmers are certainly not reasonable.
Some people are trying to confuse dairy farmers by stating that if 608(c)18 was appropriate, then the law would have been implemented a long time ago.
Hogwash! I have no knowledge that anyone has really called for a hearing to have dairy farmers' costs brought into a milk pricing formula.
I'm fully aware of the lawsuit that St. Alban's Co-op in Vermont started several years ago, when a judge ruled that it was obvious 608(c)18 had not been implemented. Further action taken by Congress played a part in the co-op dropping the lawsuit.
So one more time, Mr. and Mrs. Dairy Farmer. Are you now ready to help develop your own destiny by petitioning for this very important hearing?
Please don't listen to the people who try to tell you it can't be done. If you don't have access to a petition, then simply send a letter to the USDA stating your support of a national milk hearing under 608(c)18 of the Agriculture Act. Send your letter or petition by email to email@example.com, by fax to 202-690-3410 or by regular mail to Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture c/o Dana H. Coale, Deputy Administrator, AMS-Dairy Programs, Room 2968-S, Whitten Building 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250.
Arden Tewksbury of Meshoppen, Pa., is manager of the Progressive Agriculture Organization.