Missouri Dairy Farms are in Need of Help

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Linn - Dairy Farms in Missouri have been struggling the past few years to stay in business.

Farmers like Alfred Brandt of Brandt Dairy Farms in Linn, MO have seen the decrease in dairy farms over the years. Brandt's family has owned their dairy farm since 1997 and he is the 6th generation farmer.

Dairy farms in Missouri have lost more cows than most states over the past few years. Missouri is currently ranked 43rd in dairy production per cow and 25th in the country in milk production. Missouri has slipped about 5 spots in dairy ranking over the past 5 years. Bradnt said Missouri has lost about 400 dairy farms.

The farms have been going under due to two bad dairy years in 2009 and 2012. Farms that did not have the money or insurance to keep them in business just went under, decreasing Missouri's dairy production.

Representative Casey Guernsey, the agricultural committee chair, said many dairy farms are also closed due to retirement. Many dairy farms are kept within the family and if families decide to retire without passing the farm on to younger members the numbers decrease as well.

 "This isn't just a dairy farm producer issue, this is an issue all across the board for the dairy industry and ultimately it's the consumer that pays the price for what's happening in the industry in Missouri," Rep. Guernsey said.

This decrease in the Missouri dairy farms cause a strain on the local milk production. Much of the milk is having to be imported from other states, which causes milk prices in Missouri to increase. Competitors like Almond milk are almost compatible with the regular milk prices in Missouri.

"The processing plants in Missouri, there's a lot of them, and we're importing a lot of milk from other states to fill them so if we can keep the local milk filling the plants instead of bring milk in from the weatern states it sure will help Missouri," Brandt said.

Representative Guernsey and Representative Bill Reiboldt have sponsered House bill 1326 to help this dairy industry problem. The bill is basically a piggyback to the national farm bill that was passed.

Right now the farm bill will give insurance to farmers, but the money given is based off of the zip code and is not market driven which is what dairy farmers need.

This bill will help insure dairy farmers with the taxes off of local dairy products. It is essentially subsidizing the insurance from the farm bill for dairy farmers to help keep them in business.

"This doesn't create a check to be mailed out every month or every year to a dair farm, it simple will allow them to stay above their break even point based on how much insurance they chose to buy," Rep. Guernsey said.

Another aspect of the bill includes a scholarship program for agricultural students. This program provides scholarships for ag students to receive, however, they must stay and work for Missouri farms two years for every year they recieve the scholarship. This part of the bill is intended to help keep workers in Missouri and get younger individuals on Missouri farms in hopes that retirement will not cause a farm to go under.

"There's a small pool of resources to pull from as far as kids that have a knowledge of the dairy industry so if we could get kids interested and focus on dairy in Missouri and get them hired back on dairy farms it should really help things take off," Brandt said.

 Rep. Guernsey said there has already been a lot of discussion on the bill.

The bill has passed out of the House and will head to the Senate this month.