Sunday, April 14, 2019 1:00 am
Farmer's video underscores industry woes
PINE ISLAND, Minn. – A Minnesota dairy farmer frustrated by the industry's rising financial pressures has taken to social media to voice his concerns in an emotional video that's been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
Mark Berg, 26, told the Star Tribune that he posted the Facebook video Monday after arguing with his family about how to save their dairy farm in Pine Island.
“Literally just got done arguing with my dad. Just arguing, screaming back and forth. And it never used to be that way, you know, it never did,” Berg says in the video. “And it's not our fault. It isn't our fault. It isn't fair.”
Brushing back tears, he talks about his father telling him that he has less than when he started the business 40 years ago.
Minnesota saw the median income at a dairy farm drop from about $43,000 last year to less than $15,000. Roughly one out of 10 dairy farms in the state has ceased operations.
Berg explains that his family has been taking out loans to pay their bills, and that they need to sell some of their cattle due to depleted feed supplies and years of low milk prices.
“We're not asking to make a million,” he says. “But when you literally work day in day out, all the time, for nothing? We've gained nothing.”
Talking about the desperation that many in the industry feel, Berg says he knows of farmers who have died by suicide.
State data about suicide among farmers isn't readily available, but there are efforts throughout the state to address mental health in the farming industry. The University of Minnesota Extension began organizing a mental health workshop called Farming in Tough Times after a farmer died by suicide in fall 2018. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has set up a crisis hotline and other stress-coping resources for farmers on the agency's website.
Berg's video was posted with a note that read: “To the Dairy Community, I know you are hurting, hang in there if you can.”
He told the Star he posted the video because he “had to get something off his shoulders.”
“I didn't know if anybody would listen,” Berg said. “I feel like I was at my weakest point.”