Members of the National Milk Producers Federation voted 31-1 late last week to implement a trial programme that aims to boost milk prices by controlling output volumes, lifting exports or selling off animals.

Under the banner “Cooperatives Working Together”, the programme is described as a desperate measure in harsh times. “Pricing is terrible right now. Farmers need it bad,” Clyde Rutherford, a vice president of the federation, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The programme aims to reduce national milk supply by 4.6 billion pounds per year, which should see price rises by about US$1.30 per 100 pounds shipped.

However, at least 80% of the cooperative’s dairy farmers need to participate in the programme if it is to be effective, as the fee of 18 cents per 100 pounds of milk shipped will only be levied on participants. The sole dissenting vote was cast by Prairie Farms Dairy, based in Illinois, precisely because it believed all farmers should be obliged to pay for the programme, as all will benefit.

If the crucial 80% support level is achieved by the end of June, the export programme will be launched from 1 July.

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