Family-owned dairy farms across the country are struggling as milk prices have fallen in the last few years due to an abundance of supply on the market.
In Sullivan County, New York, six dairy farms are losing their wholesale contracts, and 52 are losing them statewide. That means as of July, no one is buying what these farmers produce.
“We’re scrambling to find another creamery to take us on and buy our milk wholesale,” Alice Diehl told WCBS News in an interview at the Diehl family farm — a business founded in 1842. In Wisconsin, 500 dairy farms shuttered in 2017, while the total number of milk-cow herds is down about 20 percent from five years ago.
The dairy industry has been shifting toward larger, corporate farms over the last 15 years, creating conflicts with local residents and environmental activists because the farms produce massive amounts of waste.
Walmart is bottling its own milk in Indiana, for example, while China is ramping up domestic production — adding to the milk glut. And tastes have changed: The average American drinks 37 percent less milk today than in 1970. Many choose alternative products like almond or hemp milk instead.
What can be done to help the farmers in Sullivan County? Some want a quota system to prevent massive corporate farms from producing so much milk it hurts family farms. Many would like government support for prices so they can break even.
Officials need to “to create a floor, for the milk price, so it can’t drop down below cost of production,” dairy farmer Cindy Gieger told WCBS.