The United States has applied its central planning acumen to the dairy industry for many decades. It has worked as you might expect.
Not only does America have milk – it’s got a surplus of over 8 million metric tons, forcing dairy farms to shutter and farmers to simply start dumping millions of gallons of milk that far exceeds domestic and foreign demand…
The State of Wisconsin has seen a net loss of more than 400 dairy farms this year alone, and in December last year, the state’s farmers dumped a record 160 million pounds of skim milk they couldn’t sell. That’s three times the amount they were forced to dump in 2012, according to CSMonitor.
By July, farmers in the Northeast had dumped 145 million pounds of milk, and 23.6 million pounds of that was dumped in July alone, according to Bloomberg.
Predictably, we have a bureaucrat to step in for comic relief:
“Dairy farmers are free-market guys – they don’t want to be told how much to produce,” Richard A. Ball, commissioner of New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, told Bloomberg.
Ahem. The free market is what would be telling dairy framers how much to produce; if there was one. Since there isn’t, maybe they do have to be told. Which, to be fair, is what they asked for.
With just the right combination of lobbyists, legislators, and bureaucrats I’m sure we could convert this glut into a shortage, or maybe a bigger glut, in short order. At least we could ensure a glut of lobbyists and bureaucrats as a source of campaign contributions to legislators.
As to signs of dairy farmers being “free market guys,” I don’t think lobbying for protective tariffs, USDA price regulation, demanding trade war, or rent-seeking after subsidies actually qualify.
U.S. dairy imports are restricted through quotas, tariffs and licensing requirements. Prices are regulated through a complex system managed by the USDA, which sets minimum prices. When prices fall below regulated minimums, farmers can apply for federal assistance.
US dairy farmers didn’t manage to get into this situation all on their own, they have had a lot of government “help.” They did, however, ask for it – including their share of $20 billion a year in subsidies from the farm bill, a hodge-podge of other price support programs, and the building of America’s strategic cheese reserve.