Economic difficulties could bring more than 100 dairies to the point of bankruptcy, foreclosure or sale by year's end, according to this story from the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I've never seen it as dire as it is now," Frank Mendonsa, a Tulare, Calif., dairyman who serves on the Western United Dairymen board, told the newspaper. "Pride is just eating these guys up. People are calling me and asking me what to do. It becomes like a counseling session to stop people from hurting themselves. But it's not just losing our jobs that is driving the desperation. We're losing our houses, in some cases the same houses that our grandparents lived in, and we're losing our entire identities."
Tough times began in late 2008. Corn prices were high because of ethanol mandates, dairy exports suffered because of a global economic downturn, and a recession here at home made it more difficult for families to eat out at restaurants. Many producers had to dig into their equity to survive. 2009 went down as the worst year in the dairy industry since the Great Depression. There was moderate relief in 2010, followed by a good year in 2011. But feed costs skyrocketed out of control this year, making it very tough on dairymen in California and elsewhere.
The situation is so bleak that at least one dairy cooperative has launched a crisis hotline for dairy farmers and their families. The hotline provides members with confidential counseling and support services to help those in the industry cope with life-altering changes. Read more here.