For five generations, Lee Reese's family has worked a dairy farm outside Logan.
"Most of them are family farms up here. I have three married sons working with me so we're a family farm. My great-grandfather settled here in the 1860s to 1870s," he said in telephone interview Monday.His voice fills with pride as he talks about his pioneer heritage. But ask him how the dairy business is faring these days and his enthusiasm wanes.
"There's a lot of dissatisfaction out there with the prices they're getting," said Reese, who is also president of the Utah-Idaho Farmers Union.
During the past year, milk prices at the farm level have plummeted 30-35 percent. Meanwhile, milk surpluses have continued to rise.
"We dropped 32 percent this last year. That means a lot of money for a herd of cows," he said. Farmers are receiving nearly the same amount of money for their milk now as they did in 1978, he said.
The latest blow came when a congressional conference committee last week yanked the emergency dairy assistance provision out of Congress' supplemental appropriations bill. The plan would have propped up raw milk prices.
The Senate approved the emergency dairy relief as part of legislation that includes foreign aid and money for domestic programs. But the Bush administration threatened to veto the bill.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, the provision's sponsor, withdrew the proposal in the face of opposition. Bush administration officials lobbied against the measure, saying it would result in higher milk prices and boost the cost of federally funded nutrition programs.
Yet the funding package approved by Congress included $55 million in economic and military aid to Jordan. "They gave Jordan a bunch of money and Jordan was on Iraq's side during the war. The dairy farmers were cast to the wolves," Reese said.
"It made me feel like if we were a foreign country, we'd be treated a little better."
Thus far, the free-fall of raw milk prices has not been reflected in consumer prices. The Wall Street Journal reported that consumers continue to pay steep dairy prices for products ranging from cheese to ice cream.
"As the price has come down, the grocery stores have been real slow to reflect that," he said.
Reese said he fears worse times ahead.
"For the next six months, it's going to be terribly important for the family farmer to get a little better price for their dairy products," he said.
If not, the future looks glum for dairy farmers, said Jay C. Andersen, economics specialist for the Utah State University Extension Service.
"Feed costs above $5 cwt. (hundredweight) pounds of milk and high debt levels make survival in the business pretty difficult," Andersen said.