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Maine Has Lost One-Third of Its Dairy Farms Since 2020 Due to Rising Costs and Other Challenges

By Carol Bousquet

The Task Force to Support Dairy Farms in Maine met for the first time Wednesday to come up with recommendations for how the state might help farms be more profitable.

The panel will consider ideas such as whether Maine should expand its milk processing operations, allowing farmers to bypass costly commercial plants.

The Maine Milk Commission says 99% of milk produced here goes to a commercial plant and then to stores throughout New England.

Director Julie Marie Bickford said there aren't enough consumers in Maine to expand processing here.

"If we're going to do something for a larger group of farms it's going to have to be, 'can we make sure milk produced in Maine can have a home,'" Bickford said.

Currently, the state said consumer trends are shifting toward cheese and yogurt and away from fluid milk.

A third of the state's Dairy Farms have shut down in four years, many citing high costs and low returns.

Farmers said state lawmakers must better understand the challenges facing the dairy industry, and its important place in the food system and Maine's economy.

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