It’s not that unusual these days to buy a gallon of milk for less than two dollars. Sounds like a bargain, but dairy farmers across America are in trouble. There is an old saying in economics that the cure for low prices is low prices. If dairy farmers can’t make it, they’ll sell their cows and go out of business, insuring an eventual shortage of milk, and thus, higher prices.
This time feels different, though. Many dairy farmers are selling out completely. When elusive higher prices return, there may not be enough cows and infrastructure left to take advantage.
This sell-off is happening now. About 10 percent of the nation’s dairy farms have closed over the last year. It could signal a big change in the U.S. dairy business. Of course, it’s the smaller operations that struggle the most.
Dairies will remain, overwhelmingly, family farms, but they will certainly be bigger. It is a sad thing to see generations of a dairy family forced out of business.
Higher prices will return. Too late to save many family dairies.