State courting young dairy farmers

PENNSYLVANIA - Seven days a week, Joe Walker and his father, Tom, are feeding and milking their dairy cows.
calendar icon 29 December 2006
clock icon 1 minute read
That includes Christmas and New Year’s Day.

And it’s all for a paycheck that often amounts to a lot less than most office jobs.

“You just try to pay the bills. And if there’s anything left, then you pay yourself,” Joe Walker said. At 36, he is younger than the average age of a Somerset County dairy farmer, 53.

With such financial challenges and a volatile and complicated milk market, Joe Walker said it’s tough to interest the younger generation into dairy farming, typically a family business. He doubts his 16-year-old son will pick up the work, though the farm has been in his family for four generations.

“He sees how the other side lives,” Joe Walker said, adding that this year may end up being the most financially stressed years the 50-cow farm has seen.

“We’ll be hard-pressed to break even,” he said.

Yet the state is working on programs to lure younger dairy farmers back into the business – even as farmers around the region such as the Walkers lament rising production costs and low wholesale milk prices. Some call the system for milk pricing outdated.

Source: The Tribune-Democrat
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