The Dairy Pricing Association purchased 42,000 pounds of yellow and white cheddar cheese and donated it to the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee County on April 27.
Robin Berg, a Darlington farmer who founded the Dairy Pricing Association in 2009, is a member of the advisory board. Berg says the organization purchases a carload of cheese and donates it to a food bank about every three months.
"We're a grass-roots organization," Berg says. "Our members pay 10 or 15 cents per cwt. We're not about supply management, we're about price management. When we need to remove products to boost the price, we place an ad and buy a carload of cheese.
"When we have sufficient funds, we place an ad in the 'Cheese Reporter' that says: 'Wanted: 40,000 to 44,000 pounds of cheese' and we state the price we will pay," he explains. "It is always 10 cents or more higher than the Chicago Mercantile Exchange price. We paid $1.65 per pound for this load.
"What raises the price of milk is disappearance, providing it to people who are not presently consuming cheese. Now we are putting dairy in the diet of people who are not presently buying cheese. This is promotion."
Berg believes this is one solution to helping deal with a surplus of milk. "Dairy farmers across the country are scared right now because of what happened to farmers at Grassland Dairy. We don't dump milk. We choose to do something positive with it, so we buy surplus cheese and donate it. There are so many people who need food."
Berg says the organization has about 400 members in 10 states. "We are a 501c5 agricultural marketing entity," he adds. "Contributions to Dairy Pricing are tax-deductible."
Berg notes that each carload of cheese purchased by Dairy Pricing Association removes eight-plus tanker loads of milk from the saturated market.
"No retailer or no middleman has the opportunity to make a profit on these eight-plus tanker loads because it is taken off the market before it reaches them," he explains. "In 2016, Dairy Pricing Association removed just short of 23 tanker loads of milk from the market."
Berg says the association's goal is to boost the milk price to a livable level for dairy farmers.
"Last year in the block and barrel trade for the year, there were 1,247 carloads of cheese traded on the Chicago Mercantile," he says. "If the dairy farmers supporting cooperative dairy pricing stood there every day with an order, there wouldn't be a need for the CME, unless the market was above our support price, which is $2.05 cents per pound [of cheese]. We figured $18.50 per cwt for Class III milk is the minimum price dairy farmers have to have to be financially solvent. A fair price would be $24. The problem with $24 milk is everyone wants to produce 3% or 4% more than is needed. There has to be self-discipline."
According to Sarah Kikkert, communications manager for Hunger Task Force, 86,000 people each month visit food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens in Milwaukee County.
Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee County, says she is grateful for the donation of 42,000 pounds of cheddar cheese.
"This cheese donation is incredible," says Tussler. "Hunger Task Force supplies food to emergency food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Cheese and dairy products are rarely donated to food drives. The 42,000-pound donation of cheese from the Dairy Pricing Association assures access to one of Wisconsin’s favorite foods for nearly 21,000 hungry families. Wisconsin families love cheese, and we’re excited to share this generosity with them."
More information about Dairy Pricing Association is available at dairypricing.org.