Milk cows Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images

Chance meeting reiterates world of hurt in dairy

It’s unsettling to see such troubled agricultural times given the most advanced farming technology ever available to mankind is at producers' fingertips

Every once in a while the stars seem to align and those with similar destinies meet at just the right time. My wife and I recently celebrated our silver wedding anniversary with a ‘bucket list’ adventure aboard a cruise ship.

On the first night at sea at dinner, we sat down with two new couples to break bread and share conversation. We were all strangers from across different ‘ponds’ with one initial shared commonality – the English language.

The regional brogues taught us to listen carefully to each word. The couples were from Australia and New Zealand whose accents were a challenge for the Americans (us), and ours for them with our own compilations of U.S. West, Midwest, and ‘Southern’ drawl twangs.

Surprisingly, our newfound dinner friends turned out to be former dairy farmers – they hadn’t met before either. I listened intently about their passions for agriculture.

They excitedly discussed low milk prices back home and how they’d hung on as long as they could before exiting the dairy industry. They sharing stories about failed government dairy policies and producer milk prices below their cost of production.

Their passions for agriculture still beamed brightly and they surely missed their calling. Then one of them shared, “I sure don’t miss milking at 5 a.m.” We all roared with laughter.

I shared my vocation as an agricultural journalist in the ‘States,’ noting that U.S. dairymen, including those in the Far West, were also struggling financially. They seemed to draw some peace from this – knowing they were not alone amid their own struggles.

Let’s face it. The dairy industry is in a world of hurt, has been for a while, and low milk price struggles cross many borders. Also hit hard economically by a depressed milk market are those in allied industries, including equipment and forage feed crops. It’s unsettling to see such troubled agricultural times given the most advanced farming technology ever available to mankind is at their fingertips.

Whichever path life take’s us it’s important to remember that we are not alone. The essential human spirit helps make it possible to survive the back-to-back curve balls called L-I-F-E.

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