Queen Cow and the Eau Claire Rule: Eau Claire as the New Deal Base Point for the Federal Milk Marketing Order

Authors: Carissa Dowden*, University Of Nebraska - Lincoln
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Rural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Dairy, Wisconsin, Milk, Pricing, Economic Geography, Cow, Dairying
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 4
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
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The Federal Milking Marketing Order (“FMMO”) system was established as a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1937. According to popular dairy mythology, this also purportedly established Eau Claire as the national base point, or the site from which minimum fluid milk prices are set. In reality, Eau Claire was set as the base point as part of the 1960s redevelopment and organization of federal dairy marketing policies. This research seeks to analyze the geographic and economic reasons why Eau Claire was selected by the federal government in the development of what has since become known as the “Eau Claire Rule.” Primary documents, including government documents published before and during FDR’s administration, and agricultural yearbooks published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are used to analyze and evaluate statistical data on fluid milk in western Wisconsin before and during the New Deal. This will also be compared with data from the 1960s to evaluate any change over time. Results show that there is no statistical explanation why Eau Claire was selected as a base point for the dairy pricing, and claims that this label emerged by dairy farmers during the New Deal are baseless. While the U.S. dairy industry no longer operates on the original form of the FMMO, perceptions of Eau Claire’s dominance in the industry still hold fast among dairy farmers today.

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