Facing pressures from an ever-changing marketplace, Piedmont Milk Sales formed a co-op with local dairy farmers to avoid shutting down.
The co-op guarantees dairy farmers have a place to sell their milk, but at a lowered rate. If not for the co-op forming, Piedmont president Mike Jackson says the company would have gone out of business.
“It’s tough,” Jackson told WCYB. “Unless something changes, we will continue to lose dairy farms. We will continue to see dairy farms go out of business.”
The decision comes after Dean Foods announced it would end contracts with over 100 independent dairy farmers by May 31st, citing significant changes in the dairy industry. The biggest change came when Walmart chose to internalize its dairy operations at a plant in Indiana, producing 100 million gallons of milk each year.
For smaller, family-owned, farms, low prices for milk and the saturation of supply have made it increasingly difficult to stay in business.
Steve King, the owner of a dairy farm in Piney Flats, believes mechanisms need to be put in place to help smaller farms survive.
“Walmart may be good for some people but I think it’s made a lot of people second guess and re-think this thing that maybe local might be better,” King said.
King is optimistic about the partnership with Piedmont moving forward, and hopes lawmakers will take action to help control the supply of milk in the market. A growing number of dairy farmers support some type of production control.
“Any milk that you buy at Ingles, the Laura Lynn or Sealtest brands, at Igles, you can be sure come from local dairy farmers,” Jackson said.
Without a change soon, with prices the way they are, Jackson believes you’ll see more small dairy farms go under.