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Dakota Datebook

Milk Stabilization Board

 

On this day in 1969, the North Dakota Senate Agriculture Committee heard a contentious argument over the destiny of milk prices. On one side was the Milk Stabilization Board, which wanted more power to set the minimum price of milk in North Dakota. On the other side was the North Dakota Food Retailers Association, which believed that these powers were unfair and possibly unconstitutional. 

Fixing the price of milk has a long history. In 1883, dairy farmers in New York refused to sell their milk when they deemed the price too low. In 1918 the city of Minot passed an ordinance that set the price of milk in order to curtail dairy farmers from refusing to sell their milk. The state of North Dakota was keen to help the state’s dairy industry when dairies outside of North Dakota started selling excess milk in North Dakota. Thus the Milk Stabilization Board was formed in 1967. The board consists of five members appointed by the governor: a dairy farmer, a milk processor, a retailer who sold milk, and two consumers who are not engaged in the milk industry. 

In 1969 the Milk Stabilization Board got what they wanted and were given the ability to set minimum prices, regulate the Grade A dairy industry, and got a five cents per hundredweight assessment paid by milk processors. The assessment helps pay for the board’s work. The Board were also able to work on preventing dairies from other states dumping milk in North Dakota. Over all, the board is responsible for the economic stabilization of North Dakota’s dairy industry. In 1995 the board’s name was changed to the Milk Marketing Board. 

The Board’s work has not gone without controversy over the years. Dairy product coupons in North Dakota must be generic, and not for specific brands. Coupons cannot be used if the discount puts the price below the minimum price threshold. Some decisions made by the Board have dismayed retailers, such as the rule that private haulers could deliver milk to stores as long as 45 cases were ordered. This put small rural stores in a bind. However, some scholars applaud the Board’s work on helping to build strong and stable communities by supporting the state’s dairy industry.

As of 2021, only six other states have milk pricing programs: Maine, Montana, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa

Sources:

Associated Press, “Milk Unit Asks Greater Powers,” The Bismarck Tribune. Bismarck, ND, February 25, 1969, pg. 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/413478786 

Author Unknown, “Milk Stabilization Board,” State Historical Society of North Dakota. https://www.history.nd.gov/archives/stateagencies/milkmarketing.html Accessed January 25, 2021.

Author Unknown, “Cumbersome Laws Create Overly Cautious Coupons,” Coupons in the News. https://couponsinthenews.com/2015/11/09/cumbersome-laws-create-overly-cautious-coupons/ accessed January 25, 2021.

Author Unknown, “States with Classified Pricing Programs,” USDA Agricultural Marketing Service,” https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/moa/dairy/classified-milk-pricing accessed January 25, 2021.

Blank, Christine, “Milk Rule Irks Rural North Dakota Grocers,” Supermarket News, https://www.supermarketnews.com/archive/milk-rule-irks-rural-north-dakota-grocers accessed January 25, 2021.

Butcher, Carole. “Milk Wars,” Dakota Datebook. Ihttp://archive.prairiepublic.org/radio/dakota-datebook?post=65938 accessed January 25, 2021.

Hagen, C.S., “The New McCarthyism,” High Plains Reader. https://nplleaguer.com/2019/02/28/mccarthyism-north-dakota-styled-today/ accessed January 25, 2021.

Port, Rob, “Thank the Government for Protecting You from Low Milk Prices,” sayanythingblog.com, https://www.sayanythingblog.com/entry/thank-government-protecting-low-milk-prices/ accessed January 25, 2021.

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