The nation's drought and high corn prices are devastating California's $8 billion dairy industry to the point where farmers can't afford to feed their cows - and their professional trade organization has been regularly referring despondent dairymen to suicide hotlines.
Experts in the industry estimate that by year's end California, the largest dairy state in the nation, will have lost more than 100 dairies to bankruptcies, foreclosures and sales.
According to the Western United Dairymen, a California trade group, three dairy farmers have committed suicide since 2009, despairing over losing their family's dairies.
"I've never seen it as dire as it is now," said Frank Mendonsa, a Tulare dairyman who serves on the Western United Dairymen board. "Pride is just eating these guys up. People are calling me and asking me what to do. It becomes like a counseling session to stop people from hurting themselves. But it's not just losing our jobs that is driving the desperation. We're losing our houses, in some cases the same houses that our grandparents lived in, and we're losing our entire identities."
For more, see: Calif. expected to lose 100 dairy farms