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Published May 12, 2010, 07:03 AM

Letter to the editor: Big dairy will make it easier for family dairies in N.D.

I write in response to Tracy Muske’s May 6 letter to the editor, “Low milk prices make it hard for family dairies to survive.” Low milk prices have made it very difficult for all dairy farms to survive. As a member of the board of directors of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition, I know firsthand that existing dairies have always been our top priority.

By: Sarah Bedgar Wilson, The Jamestown Sun

I write in response to Tracy Muske’s May 6 letter to the editor, “Low milk prices make it hard for family dairies to survive.”

Low milk prices have made it very difficult for all dairy farms to survive. As a member of the board of directors of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition, I know firsthand that existing dairies have always been our top priority. We have served as a resource to help North Dakota dairies to improve and/or expand their operations. The dairies that have considered moving to North Dakota are generally not new dairies, but dairies that have chosen to move from another location, usually due to urban encroachment. Also, North Dakota has many advantages for dairy operations, including open space, land availability and affordable feedstuffs.

The past few years have been some of the most difficult the dairy industry has seen, and that has affected all operations, regardless of size or business structure. As the number of dairy cows in North Dakota has dropped, the biggest challenge has been the loss of infrastructure, meaning that dairy processing plants are now fewer and farther apart, therefore increasing the cost of milk hauling. In addition, access to veterinary and dairy equipment services has decreased. More cows in the state would mean a revitalization of that infrastructure, which is necessary for all dairies to exist.

When it comes to the issue of farm size, I’d like to remind everyone that a farm is a farm. No matter what size, or how their businesses are structured, all farmers are charged with efficiently raising safe, wholesome food. None are more focused on animal well-being than dairy producers, who rely on healthy cows to sustain their businesses. Each farmer has the freedom to choose their own farm management techniques according to their individual goals and there is always a good reason for whatever size their operation is as their business evolves. For example, if my children choose careers other than agriculture, after my generation’s retirement, my family’s farm may be run by someone other than my family, yet it will still be a farm. If all of my children choose to stay on our operation, then our operation will grow to meet the needs of multiple families. Though it would be larger, it will still be a farm. Either way, the next generation will continue to care for our resources responsibly. There is a place in the agriculture industry for every size and type of farm.

With regards to the dairy proposed in LaMoure County, I sincerely hope that our community warmly welcomes them. Everyone, from dairy producers to dairy consumers, will benefit from additional cows in our area.

Sarah Bedgar Wilson

Jamestown

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