Northeastern Dairy Industry Dwindling
Low milk prices and unforgiving feed costs are causing dairy farming in New Hampshire to become extremely difficult. In a town hall-style meeting organized by Congresswoman Annie Kuster on Monday, producers expressed their concerns to a packed audience. Bob Wellington of Agri-Mark, the company that owns Cabot Cheese, shared the cooperative’s concern about the number of their producer members going out of business in the region. "Prices they get for dairy are well below the cost of production, and it was bad last year and it has gotten worse this year. So, we are seeing a lot of farmers go out of business, particularly the small to medium family farms," he said. Nearly one-third of all the dairy farmers in New England are Agri-Mark members. Wellington said they are seeing an average of 10 dairy farms going out of business per month.
Dairy farmer and New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner, Lorraine Merrill is no stranger to the issues facing the dairy industry. She recently commented about her concern saying 2016 marks “a drastic acceleration in closing farms.” New Hampshire has lost 19 of its 120 dairy farms this year.
Several of New Hampshire’s elected officials are concerned by the situation and are seeking solutions for producers. State representative Bob Haefner hopes the state’s dairy farmers emergency fund can be activated for the next budget cycle which would provide relief in mid-September. Meanwhile, New Hampshire Governor, Maggie Hassan, successfully worked with USDA to allow dairy farmers to qualify for emergency relief from the Farm Service Agency (FSA).