More than 100 farmers will have to look for new opportunities
By Diego Flammini
Some dairy farmers in Pennsylvania were dealt a huge blow to their operations last week.
Swiss Premium Dairy, a large processor in Lebanon County, began issuing letters to producers on Feb. 26 that indicate it would be terminating contracts with some farmers.
“I regret to notify you we must cease purchasing milk from your dairy farm. Our agreement will end in 90 days,” Brent Bruce, director of dairy direct operations with Dean Foods, the processor’s parent company, said in the letter obtained by Farms.com.
More than 100 dairy farmers across nine states received similar letters from Dean Foods.
The contract will end on May 31, the letter states.
More than 100 dairy farmers across nine states have received similar notices, Dean Foods said in a statement.
Farmers are producing more milk but Americans are drinking three gallons less milk per person per year since 2010, the statement adds.
Increased competition between processors is also a factor in the decision, according to the statement.
Now dairy farmers have about three months to find new opportunities but they first have to come to grips with their current situation.
“These notices came out of nowhere. There was no forewarning, and (Swiss Premium) is the dairy everybody wanted to sell their milk to,” Nelson Troutman, a producer from Lebanon County, told Farms.com today.
Troutman isn’t directly affected by Swiss Premium’s announcement as he sells his milk to another processor. However, he’s seeing the impact of the situation through friends who received letters from Dean Foods.
“Some of these farmers have called six different dairy processors and nobody will take their milk,” Troutman said. “These are good people and good farmers with young families.”
Without processors to accept their milk, dairy producers are considering all options.
“You can only dump milk for so long before you start losing money,” Troutman said. “Some will have no choice but to develop an exit plan and leave the dairy industry entirely.”
Farmers can access some resources if they prepare to transition their production plans.
The Center for Dairy Excellence in Harrisburg, Pa., can connect farmers with consultants to help determine the best solution for their operations.
“We’re trying to help the farms in their transition, whether that’s to another milk market or if its to another agricultural enterprise,” Jayne Sebright, executive director of the Center for Dairy Excellence, told Farms.com today. “One resource we have is the Dairy Decisions Consultants business tool.”
The program provides dairy farmers with professional consulting resources. Once accepted into the program, producers can receive up to $3,500 to work with a consultant.
“A consultant will come to his or her farm to help the (team) think through their options moving forward,” Sebright said. “The consultant will talk with farmers about their individual situations, how to identify what’s available, what path they need to (follow to) move forward, and put a plan in motion to do so.”
Top photo: Google Maps