Market reality, stress and grief
This is the first in a series from the ISU Extension and Outreach Dairy Team on Dealing with Farm Stress. More farm stress resources
Market Reality is an understanding of past market cycles, current market forces, and future market opportunities based on a complex set of economic, political, cultural, and other situations that affect farm incomes at any given point in time. Market Stress is an extended time where low product prices or high input costs cause negative margins and/or negative cash flow. Market Grief is a reaction to the loss of something (profit or way of life) that is loved and cherished because finances or cash flow do not work out for extended periods of time. It may be an exasperation of a "Holy Cow" to a situation beyond control. Alternatives seem limited or are difficult to adjust to or realize in the new market norm.
Making the Tough Choices and Seeking Marketing Options. While many producers do not use a risk management tool, they are available and can be useful. For example, the 2018 Farm Bill gives dairy producers new market protection options, which, in reality, may actually protect the over-supply of milk. It renames the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MMP-Dairy) to Dairy Margin Coverage Program (DMC) and permits participation in both DMC and Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy (LGM) on the same production. DMC and the Dairy Revenue Protection program may also be used together. The DMC program is vastly improved from the old MPP and when combined with LGM coverage, should be considered by every dairyman, no matter how many cows they milk.
Every farm needs an operating plan, and as important, an exit strategy - setting a point where one is no longer willing to accept equity loss and will exit the industry or reallocate resources to another enterprise. The easiest route is to do nothing and hope things resolve themselves. Unfortunately, that hardly ever works. Remember, there is life after the cows leave the barn or even after people leave the farm. It is a tough reality, filled with stress and maybe even grief, but is often a necessary outcome in times of trouble.
Farmers need to be resourceful when considering how else resources can be used. Farm alternatives or off-farm jobs might not be a great choice, but a possibility needing consideration. Often, a conversation with someone who has gone through an "exit" can be helpful. Bringing others, including extension specialists, into the discussion might help to bring out ideas that otherwise might not be considered.
Hopefully, all the market reality, stress and grief can be worked through: making tough choices, reaching out to others, exploring options, and giving life a new reality.
Hopefully, a new acceptance is attained that gives hope to meaningful life - a life that maybe just different than before.