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Dairy on the rebound: Industry insiders eye positive swing in 2020

As people peruse the Farm Show and learn about the agriculture industry, CBS21 News is diving deeper into Pennsylvania’s largest ag contributor, dairy. Just this week, the nation’s second largest milk producer, Borden, filed for bankruptcy. But, PA dairy farmers say despite the news, things are getting a little better.

“Prices have been very depressed over the past four years,” said Lolly Lescher from Way-Har Farms.

For six generations, Lescher’s family has been milking cows in Berks County. From Jerseys to Brown Swiss, these Pennsylvania cattle are her families cash crop.

“We have been operating at a loss the last four years. So, we are eating away at our equity, eating away at our savings,” Lescher said.

Just this week, Borden, one of America’s oldest and largest dairy producers announced that it is filing for bankruptcy. The company is blaming a six percent drop in milk consumption since 2015 as one of the many reasons.

“It creates some uncertainty in the markets,” said Dave Smith from the PA Dairymen’s Association.

Even with that uncertainty, Pennsylvania industry experts think things are on a bit of a rebound. Prices which are set nationally have inched up this year providing a bit of breathing room for farmers.

“I think it’s better than it was a year ago. Some prices have moved up just a little bit,” Smith said.

“We are committed to being dairy farmers and I have some children that want to farm. So, we are committed to doing it long term,” Lescher said.

Long-term success for Way-Har Farms means using technology to get the most out of its 250 cattle. From Fitbits to monitor the cow’s health to robotic feed pushers, Lescher and her four kids are adapting this farm for the future.

“I am going to ride the lows and hope for some highs so they can continue on to do what they want to do as well,” she said.

Changing consumption is the best way to help a local farmer. New studies are showing the health benefits of whole milk. Lescher says if each Pennsylvania family was to drink one more gallon of whole milk a week, the industry would flourish.


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