WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — American Dairy farmers are struggling to survive. Literally.
“We’re seeing suicides at all-time high in the dairy industry,” said Michael McMahon, a dairy farmer from upstate New York.
While help is on the way, it’s not coming fast enough for too many in the business of putting milk on American tables.
According to McMahon, these are dreadful times for him and his fellow farmers.
“Emptying out their retirement funds and going the limit on their credit cards just to stay in business,” he said.
The price of milk has been below the cost of production for five years, forcing many small and medium-sized dairy farms out of business. McMahon says international trade disputes are just making things worse.
“When NAFTA was put on the shelf to be dissolved, all of a sudden these trade wars and tariff barriers went up between U.S. and Mexico and U.S. and Canada,” he explained.
“In the past year, you saw more than seven dairy farms failing every day in the United States,” said Alan Bjerga, senior VP of communications for the National Milk Producers Federation.
Bjerga says there’s optimism that the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, which would replace NAFTA, could provide some relief by expanding market access to Canada and ending some Canadian policies that were problematic for U.S. producers.
But Congress must first approve the USMCA and right now it’s stuck in both the House and the Senate.
Congressman Anthony Brindisi, D-New York, says while he knows dairy farmers need help now, the USMCA still needs work to ensure dairy farmers get a fair shake.
“We want to make sure that trade deals are enforceable and Canada is just not changing the name of the program and still doing the same thing that they’ve done in the past,” Brindisi said.
“Give us back our trade markets,” McMahon declared.
McMahon says a truce in the trade war could ease the dairy crisis and save both businesses and lives.