Can We Expect An Organic Milk Shortage In 2012? | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Can We Expect An Organic Milk Shortage In 2012?

It's been a tough few months for dairy, with Norway's butter shortage and now an ominous cloud looming over 2012 for organic milk drinkers.

Organic dairy farmers can't produce enough milk to meet demand, and the Southeast U.S. may be the hardest hit by this shortage, according to The New York Times, which had a recent report on the state of things. Consumers across the country can probably expect to see retail prices increase by as much as 10 percent this month.

So what's behind the squeeze on organic milk? According to the paper, inputs — like organic grain and hay for animals — are now dramatically more expensive for farmers, but farmers aren't getting paid more for the milk. As a result, cows are getting less food and producing less milk. (As with lots of other troubles in agriculture these days, corn for biofuel has something to do with it.)

Meanwhile, consumers continue to clamor for organic milk, which many believe to be safer, more healthful and better for the environment than conventional milk. Demand rose by as much as 10 percent in 2011, according to the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association.

To be certified organic, milk must come from cows that eat only feed grown without pesticides or herbicides. The cows can't be given antibiotics or growth hormones. And, for at least three months a year, the cows have to be out on pasture.

According to the NPOPA, as organic dairy farming has become less profitable, some farmers are returning to conventional methods. That also hurts supply.

It's also a change from a few years ago, when farmers were courted by milk companies desperate to boost their supply of the organic product. Depending on the month, organic farmers could earn double what a conventional farmer makes per gallon of milk.

Now, the farmers still in the organic game are demanding more money from the processors who buy their milk. One group, the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, has asked major processors like Organic Valley and Horizon for an additional $5 for every 100 pounds of milk; some of that cost would be passed on to consumers.

That may be more than processors are willing to pay, but other producers' groups are insisting that Organic Valley and Horizon will have to figure out some way to help cash-strapped farmers.

The Western alliance says grocery stories also can help the situation by lowering their markup on organic milk so that the prices don't ward off customers.

Publix, a Southeastern grocery chain, told The Times that shortages started in November for both its own brand, Publix GreenWise Market organic milk, and national brands like Horizon and Organic Valley.

"Supplies are sporadic," Kimberly Jaeger, a Publix spokeswoman, told The Times. Hoarding milk, unfortunately, probably won't do you much good, as it's clearly one of the most perishable items in the fridge.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Church Of Scientology Calls New HBO Documentary 'Bigoted'

The filmmaker says Going Clear, harshly critical of the Church of Scientology, is about the dangers of "blind faith." The church has hit back with an aggressive public relations effort of its own.
NPR

Think Nobody Wants To Buy Ugly Fruits And Veggies? Think Again

Remember that old movie trope, in which the mousy girl takes off her glasses to reveal she was a beauty all along? A similar scenario is playing out among food waste fighters in the world of produce.
NPR

Amazingly, Congress Actually Got Something Done

The leaders and members must, in a word, compromise. And on this occasion, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did just that, with skill and savvy.
NPR

Can Republicans Get Ahead In The 2016 Digital Race?

When Sen. Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, it happened first on Twitter. Political news is breaking more and more on social media, and both sides face different challenges in reaching out.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.