MINOT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Maine's two U.S. Senators are joining with their colleagues from Vermont and Minnesota in urging the Department of Agriculture to increase the minimum price it sets for milk in an attempt to help dairy farmers through some tough times.
Maine's 300 dairy farms are being hit hard by rising costs, while the price they get for their milk is remaining flat.
John Hemond says in his 50-years of working in the dairy industry he hasn't seen things this bad. In just the past few months the cost of feeding his 70-cow herd has increased dramatically. Grain is tougher to come by and more expensive because of the drought in the midwest.
At the same time fuel costs continued to rise creating a double whammy down on the farm.
When most businesses see a significant jump in their costs they can raise the price of their products to offset that, but dairy farmers can't do that because basically their prices are set by the federal government. The USDA sets a minimum amount dairy farmers can be paid for their product.
"Our price is locked in federally for the minimum, just like you've got minimum wages but you never see people getting paid minimum wages because you can't live on it", said Hemond.
Industry officials say unless there is a milk shortage or other dynamics at play, that's the price they get.
"There's also very little incentive to pay a whole lot more, so it becomes the defacto price", said Julie-Marie Bickford of the Maine Dairy Industry Association.
Industry officials say if Maine dairy farmers are experiencing tough times eventually it will start to wear on the state's overall economy. The say the industry generates 570-million dollars a year for the Maine economy.