The six seasoned dairy farmers from lower franconia who gathered around the dining table of armin zehner in oberschwarzach (lkr. Schweinfurt), the fear of losing their livelihoods is driving them crazy. Milk prices do not cover their costs. Since 2015, when the milk quota that had applied until then was abolished without replacement, their economic situation has deteriorated further.
Something else unites armin zehner and his colleagues bernd horner (kleinlangheim), albert fuchs (eichelsee), heinz thorwarth (fuchsstadt), alfred greubel (elfershausen) and martin gleichmann (friesenhausen) are worried about making a living for themselves and their families: they are fed up not only with the political leadership in germany, but especially with the bavarian and german farmers’ associations. This is shown by their resignation.
Dumping prices deplored
The trade organization has long since ceased to represent the interests of milk producers. First and foremost, the food industry and the cooperative associations involved in many dairies were pulling the strings on milk policy, is the main accusation there.
Aim of the "ultra-liberal dairy policy whether, by demanding export-oriented agriculture in germany, it is possible to ensure permanent overproduction and thus dumping prices to the detriment of domestic dairy farmers.
They are in danger of drowning in the milk lake that they themselves have helped to create. But that is not all. This strategy in turn ruins the farmers in the countries where the extremely cheaply produced surplus from europe ends up. A vicious circle.
Dairy farmer zehner from oberschwarzach says: "the profiteers are all in cahoots. You run like against a wall." What particularly angers zehner and his professional colleagues is that they were never consulted, as was the case most recently with the abolition of the milk quota. Despite the lack of agreement, the farmers’ association always emphasizes that it speaks for the farmers.
Since the crisis has been denied for years and there is no instrument to react to the development, all six have turned their backs on the farmers’ association and joined the federation of german farmers’ associations dairy farmers (BDM) turned toward their new representative body.
They see the only hope for their farms in the milk market crisis management propagated by the BDM. However, the farmers’ association, which is once again backed by the dairy industry, continues to categorically reject this proposal.
The belief that a free market will once again solve the problem of overproduction as the cause of falling prices, as the farmers’ association hopes, is not true the abtrunnig dairy farmers from lower franconia lost. Armin zehner emphasizes: "the dissatisfaction is gross. Organizing joint action, however, is not wanted by the opposing side. They don’t want any puffed-up farmers. That’s why the farmers’ association is trying to put us in the radical corner, since we are now involved in the district teams of the BDM, for example."
It is important to them that their criticism is directed at the association’s leadership in bavaria and the federal government, but not at the base. Many farmers still do not want to believe that the smaller farms will be permanently rationalized in favor of an industrially structured sector.
European solution needed
Armin zehner and his colleagues around the table agree: "we need a european solution to the structural problems. We are drowning on the world market." They want to fight for this, while many of their colleagues had already given up.
Instruments for the financial support of dairy farmers, such as the quite sensible barn construction requirement, had turned out to be corset bars due to the jerk payments that would be due in the event of premature abandonment of milk production. The same applies to the temporal link to the dairies from which the farmers receive their milk money. Armin zehner: "we have to milk in order to be able to pay our debt service and to buy ourselves out of the market. Meanwhile, the food industry is guaranteed the cheap raw material milk in this time."
Price increases for drinking milk and butter by discounters were only a drop in the bucket, despite the well-intentioned and above all effective advertising approach. The reason: only 13 percent of the drinking milk produced ends up in the german retail trade. The solution worked out by the BDM envisages several steps up to capping the milk quota as the last stage, in order to reduce surpluses in times of crisis and to adjust the milk quota flexibly and fairly to demand until the market has calmed down again.
The six dairy farmers emphasized: "we don’t want to continue to be just a pawn in the game and to be led. We do not want to become recipients of almosen either. Rather, we want a means of intervening in the market and the quantity in the EU as soon as the milk price slips below the production cost threshold."
A glimmer of hope could be found in the outcome of the fulda conference of agriculture ministers from a "round table be a working group set up. It is to deal with the issue of supply management and also to promote it throughout the EU. Norbert vollmann