Farmers seek more milk money: Dairy farmers seek increase in government price

US - They say don't cry over spilled milk - but you may want to because the price for a gallon may soon be climbing.
calendar icon 15 March 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
Bay State dairy farmers are calling for an emergency hearing with state officials to allow them to boost the cost of milk. They say without the increase, the already endangered dairy farming industry may soon become extinct.

The state's Department of Agriculture sets the price farmers can charge for milk to keep it affordable for consumers. That price is now $1.11 per gallon - just 2 cents higher than the price was in 1996. Meanwhile, farmers' costs such as property taxes, fuel and just about everything else are skyrocketing, they say.

While farmers can't charge more than $1.11 per gallon, grocery stores can charge whatever they want. The average cost of a gallon of milk today is $3.69, said Douglas DiMento, spokesman for Methuen-based Agri-Mark, the largest dairy farmer cooperative serving New England.

DiMento says the farmers only want fair market price and that is why his company is petitioning for higher wholesale milk rates.

"The farmers need more money," DiMento said. "We're seeing a tremendous loss of dairy farmers."

Since 1982, Massachusetts has lost 625 dairy farms. There are now 187 in the state and only a handful remain in Essex County. Locally, a dairy farm in Newbury, Sunshine Farm, went out of business Monday, according to Agri-Mark. That farmer declined to comment.

Richardson's Dairy on Route 114 in Middleton manages 370 cows, 160 of which produce milk. Owner Paul Richardson said prices are unfairly low.

He said his farm survives because it sells ice cream and other products.

"You have to work your heart out on cows," he said. "You're there seven days a week. Who takes care of them Christmas morning? You have to milk the cows."

Tyler Kimball, owner of Kimball Farm Feeds on East Broadway in Haverhill, sells to several local dairy farmers. His family used to milk cows but sold their herd in the 1970s due to low milk prices.

Source: The Eagle Tribune
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