Dairy Farmers Left Reeling After Cancelled Contracts

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Dairy Farmers Left Reeling After Cancelled Contracts

Premiere Date: 
April 14, 2017

A new tariff from Canada has forced processor Grassland to drop 75 Wisconsin farmers. The farmers got notice on April 1 from the processor that they wouldn't be able to take their milk after 30 days. As the deadline to find a new buyer looms, farmers are scrambling to find a home for their milk.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

In our "First Look" tonight, the clock is ticking for more than 75 dairy farmers in Wisconsin who by the end of the month won't be able to sell their milk to their processor. Grassland Dairy alerted the farmers by letter April 1st that it won't be able to buy their supply because the Canadian market has dried up saying quote, The Canadian government has put in place several regulations to prevent this trade from continuing. Grassland is now forced to cut back on our milk intake volumes on a very short notice due to not being able to process milk on lines dedicated to our Canadian customers. That letter came as a devastating blow to Wisconsin farmers, including Jennifer and Shane Sauer of Waterloo.

 

Jennifer Sauer:

When we opened the letter, I’ll be honest. There was shock at first. And then Tuesday and Wednesday you thought more about it. A lot of -- a lot of tears shed.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

Jennifer and Shane Sauer are worried they won't be able to continue running their 120-cow third generation farm if they don't find a new processor soon.

 

Jennifer Sauer:

You've done a lot of calling to different processors.

 

Shane Sauer:

Getting the same answer every time.

 

Jennifer Sauer:

And that answer's no. They're full. It seemed like there was some hope with that maybe, you know, somebody will take your milk, but out of the 125 processors that are in Wisconsin, you keep hearing that same answer and that's no.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

And 30 days, they say, just has not been enough time to make new plans.

 

Jennifer Sauer:

Unfortunately, people don't understand that cows aren't a machine you can shut down for a week. And when we had 30 days, 30 days is not enough to find another processor. Now we're down to 11, 12 days, and it's getting close to time.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

The Sauers say having to sell the cows would mean more than losing their livelihood. It would mean losing a way of life that's been in their families for generations and one they hoped to pass on to their children.

 

Jennifer Sauer:

We put our heart and soul into it 24/7. There's days we come down here and we don't even think of it as a job. This is the life we've chosen and this is what we know. You have -- you've dealt with so many different things living on a farm, and to think that, you know, we might have to sell the cows and try to do something different  -- 

 

Shane Sauer:

Very scary thought.


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