Farmers attempt collective bargaining for milk prices

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(Host) A new farm organization wants farmers to bargain for higher milk prices. The group calls itself Dairy Farmers of Vermont. They want to sign up farmers who produce about one-third of the state’s milk supply. The farmers then hope to pressure dairy co-ops to win a better price.

Maureen Lehouillier farms in Irasburg. She says milk prices have dropped 40% over the last year.

(Lehouillier) “Being a dairy farmer over the last year has been a tremendous struggle. The milk price, I consider a disgrace to farmers. And Dairy Farmers of Vermont is going to change that. We are going to be successful. And I think every farmer in this state needs to sign one of these cards, because it’s going to work.”

(Host) Mark Lawson is a fifth generation dairy farmer who milks about 400 cows in West Charleston. Lawson says the idea is for farmers to work together and use their collective clout. Lawson says he asked political organizer Anthony Pollina for help. Pollina ran last year as a Progressive Party candidate for lieutenant governor.

(Lawson) “This actually started as a brainstorm in the milking parlor, as I was milking cows one morning. So I happened to call Anthony, which I knew as a well-known organizer, put our heads together, had an initial meeting with about 15 local dairy farmers form Orleans and Caledonia county. And we just sat around and threw around the idea of collective bargaining. Why aren’t we doing this? Everybody else seems to be doing this. Everybody else seems to do it. Everybody else seems to pool their product to get a better price. Volume speaks words.”

(Host) Dairy Farmers of Vermont wants to work with the regional co-ops to gain a higher price for their milk. The group may also invest in a milk processing plant in Vermont.

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