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Dairy farmers form new cooperative

Dairy farmers form new cooperative

The producers all had their contracts terminated by Dean Foods

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A dairy farmer from Greene County, Tenn. is thankful for a new opportunity to sell her milk.

Lori Holland of Holly Knoll Farms is one of about 100 dairy producers Dean Foods contacted in early March with contract termination letters. The terminated agreements were set to expire at the end of the month.

“It was a very unexpected blow to the farm,” Holland told today. “At the time, we had actually been looking to buy more cows. Someone from Dean Foods told us we would be in good shape to do that about a week before we got the letter.”

After learning of the loss of their contract, the family began making plans on how to pay creditors and keep the farm profitable. They considered scaling down acreage and selling cows to abattoirs, Holland said.

Now, a new dairy cooperative is helping local producers find markets for their milk.

A group of dairy farmers from Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina formed Appalachian Dairy Farmers Cooperative (ADFC) in response to the situation with Dean Foods.

“Events over the past few months in the dairy industry have shown just how vulnerable dairy farmers are to changing market conditions,” Gary MacGibbon, a producer from North Carolina and president of ADFC, said in a statement last week.

“This new structure became necessary because of the current imbalance between the milk supply and the demand for milk, which has driven milk prices received by dairy farmers to levels that are below the cost of production.”

Piedmont Milk Sales will market the members’ milk and manage day-to-day ADFC business operations.

Holly Knoll Farms is part of the co-op. The new organization shows that farmers will support one another, Holland said.

“We had no market, but we couldn’t milk cows and just pour the milk down the drain,” she said. “We had no offers on the table so we as farmers had no other choice but to come together and find new markets ourselves.”


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