CUBA CITY (WKOW) -- The next time you grab a gallon of milk at the grocery store, you could either be helping or hurting local farmers, depending on the kind you buy.
Plummeting milk prices are causing concern.
Right now, organic farmers are pretty much suffering the same fate as conventional milk producers -- but if prices don't go up soon, organic farmers may bear the brunt because their products cost more.
The Wilson family farm, outside of Cuba City, is as old as the state of Wisconsin, established 1848.
One-thousand acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, rolling waves of pasture, populated with dairy cows. And since 1996, totally organic.
"There's definitely more work, it's more hands-on. You just can't go out and spray it," said Keith Wilson, who has lived on the farm his entire life.
He thought farming organic would bring financial security. Now, high production costs and the recession are causing him concern.
"We were spending about $30 an acre. Now, it's $70 to $80 an acre for seed corn. Soybean seed went up, so did alfalfa -- $100 a bag to $250 a bag."
Fuel costs alone are staggering -- $42,000 in 2007, $97,000 last year.
Production costs are higher on average for organic dairy farmers, $7 more per hundred weight. That difference is translating to higher prices at the grocery store.
"You can't have $25 organic milk and $10 conventional milk," Wilson said. "You know, the consumers are in hard times right now, too."
Some buyers, worried customers won't shell out more money for milk, are cutting back their organic milk stocks.
"We're setting up a quota that we're only going to be allowed to produce so much milk or we get penalized," said Wilson.
What ever happens, Wilson is standing by his methods. Organic farming he believes, is better and healthier, and the way mother nature intended.
"It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. We get back to figuring out what the soils are all about. We really get back to farming."
Wilson says he's having an easier time of it than other organic farmers, because he's able to feed his animals from what he grows on his own farm. Other dairy farmers need to buy food from outside sources, making their cost of production even higher.
June is dairy month in Wisconsin: http://www.eatlocaldairy.com/DairyFarmBreakfast.aspx
E-mail Jeff Angileri -- firstname.lastname@example.org