RANDOLPH, Vt. (AP) — Producing less milk is the only way for farmers to control the price they get for their product in the short run, a dairy cooperative official said Friday at a forum focussing on the plight of dairy farmers.

Robert Wellington, chief economist and vice president for the dairy cooperative Agri-Mark, Inc., was among the panelists who gathered at Vermont Technical College to discuss the challenges facing dairy farmers and any possible remedies.

The sparsely attended forum, which was open to the public, examined questions about who is making money in the dairy industry, how the federal milk pricing system works and what alternatives have been proposed.

Vernon dairy farmer Jim Brown, said he's been losing money since January. Every time a herd-buyout opportunity comes a long, he says he overlooks it but might reconsider this spring. "We keep plugging on," said Brown, a relative of Howard Fairman of Vernon who organized the forum.

Highgate dairy farmer Willard Rowell, a member of the group Dairy Farmers Working Together, which supports balancing the supply and demand of milk to stabilize prices, said he's getting $11.60 per hundred pounds of milk, which costs $18 to produce.

"We have some hope that there's going to be a supply-management program in this country to balance the supply and demand and we'll see more stable, less volatile, price swings and be able to sustain agriculture in this country," he said.

But persuading farmers to produce less is the challenge, said Rowell and Wellington of Agri-Mark, which supports supply management. Other ways to control the supply of milk is to reduce the number of cows by selling them for slaughter through a program called Cooperatives Working Together, or CWT, or changing the pricing system, said Diane Bothfeld, dairy policy administrator for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, who did not attend the forum.

More farmers support the supply-management concept, officials said.

Regional co-ops have put out broad statements of support for it, which is a new and different direction across the nation, Bothfeld said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press