What happens if milk prices fall? A reporter details the ‘dairy cliff’

Photo of farmer Bob Andrews by David Sommerstein

We’ve heard a lot of coverage of the fiscal cliff. But David Sommerstein of North Country Public Radio in Canton, New York, tells listeners about the “dairy cliff” in a recent segment that also aired on NPR. His story explains there is no safety net if milk prices fall because a farm bill program has expired.

Economic stories require a lot of context and producing them for radio means cutting through the clutter, David says.

“Radio listeners, especially a general audience, can really take away one idea from a story with a complex context,” David says. “I want to make sure that one idea is as clear as possible and not go down tangential avenues.”

A key moment in reporting came when a farmer noted his raw materials were worth more than his product, David says.

David Sommerstein (Photo by Jason Hunter/WDT)

“It was at the very end of the interview.  I was gathering sound as he spread out the hay for his heifers, and he just said it,” David says. “Nothing beats spending time with someone on their home turf to get the real story.”

David, who covers agriculture and the dairy industry, says the story stemmed from an article quoting a trade group spokesperson talking about the dairy cliff.  “While he was talking about the eventuality of the 1949 law taking effect, it struck me that the cliff … is the dire straits farmers feel they’re in.”

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