If you've been to the store lately, you've probably noticed that the price of milk has gone up to more than $4 a gallon in some cases. Unlike many may think, Newton County dairy farmer Jo Ann Nicholson says this is not price gauging.
"We milk cows. We send it to the plant and a month later they send us a check and whatever they send us that's what we get, so we have lived for years in a situation where we were just getting by."
Just getting by because until recent dairy farmers pay had not increase in 20 years while the costs for almost everything else had. In recent years this forced many farmers out of business.
In fact, in Newton County alone the number of dairy farmers has dropped from at least 255 in 1960 to just nine today. Also, developments over the years have been somewhat of a mixed blessing for dairy farmers. This is because the more efficient they've become and the more milk they produce, the lower the prices. Although the low prices were good for consumers, they were not necessarily for farmers.
So why the increase now in pay for farmers and costs for customers? Industry analysts say it's easy. They say while there are fewer farmers the demand for dairy products is up thanks partly at least to the popularity of high protein diets such as Atkins.
Meanwhile, because many smaller and local dairy farmers have been forced out of business, officials with Mississippi State's extension service say a great deal of Mississippi's milk is brought in from other states, a growing trend, which he says could ultimately hurt more than help.
"Transportation costs being what they are now, that milk is going to cost more to get it in here and if we can't produce it locally milk prices in the future would continue to go up and up!"