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Arizona dairy farmers struggling

As you grab ingredients for your Thanksgiving Day meal, you might have noticed lower milk prices.

It’s a good sign for consumers, but has Arizona dairy farmers concerned.

Rio Blanco Dairy Farm in Maricopa is one of dozens of Arizona dairy farms struggling to survive.

It’s been in Rosemarie Burgos-Zimbelman’s family since 1994.

“We’re losing money every day. I mean $2,000 a day and you times that by 365, that’s a lot of money,” she said.

According to the United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA), eight family dairy farms have shut down or sold out this year.

Zimbelman said there are a variety of reasons why the industry is hurting.

She explained it’s been on decline the last 10 years and people aren’t drinking as much milk as they used to.

“I think there are a lot of different beverage options. The ease of going to juice beverages is easier than taking milk somewhere,” she said.

Another challenge? It’s also too expensive right now to export dairy products to Mexico.

Zimbelman explained the added expense is Mexico’s retaliation to the Trump administration’s increased tariffs and that’s problem because 45 percent of Arizona dairy business relies on international sales.

It’s not known exactly why the eight Arizona dairies that closed this year, but believes some of the reasons were tariff-related.

Zimbelman has not considered closing up shop, but is worried about her family farm’s future. They’ve been producing milk for generations.

“We love what we do,” she said. “I think everyone is nervous and scared because we don’t know how long this is going to last. We certainly don’t want to give up our livelihood. We don’t want to give up what we love doing.”

Closing up shop could also cause a ripple effect in the agriculture industry. Zimelman said jobs could be in jeopardy.

“It’s a sad time when you think that maybe this time next year we’re not going to be here anymore,” she said. “It’s going to be a ripple down effect, because we buy commodities from other farmers who are also family farmers. We buy corn, wheat, barley, because we have to feed these animals.”

According to the UDA, there are currently 80 family dairy farms in Arizona. In 1960, there were nearly 400.


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