Photo by Ludek/Wikimedia Commons
Here in Vermont, there has been no shortage of heart-wrenching evidence that this country's dairy farmers face a financial crisis of epic proportions. Last August, I attended an auction where a farm that had been in the same family for 144 years--six generations--was sold off during the course of a single day, tractor by tractor and cow by cow due to low milk prices.
My neighbor, Henry, a small operator who works 365 days a year to tend about 55 Holsteins, stopped beside the road to chat the other day. In order to make it through the winter, he told me he needed to sell some of his animals. But even though he is asking only $500 a cow, about a third of the usual price, he's found no buyers. "Everybody's as broke as I am," he said. "I don't know what I am going to do."
Then, at about 4:00 in the afternoon of December 22, José Obeth Santiz Cruz, a 20-year-old youth from Las Margaritas in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, died after becoming caught in a manure-removal conveyer inside the barn of the Vermont farm where he worked. Because he lacked documentation, it took more than a week for officials to determine who he really was, how old he was, and where he came from.