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Majority of Wisconsin farms dropped by Grassland Dairy find new buyers
April 28, 2017

The majority of Wisconsin farms dropped by Grassland Dairy as a result of a change in Canada’s dairy pricing structure have now found new buyers for their milk.

That’s according to the Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative.

Mandy Peirick, who operates a dairy farm in Watertown, said Thursday morning that she and “several other” Dodge County producers are signing six-month contracts to sell their milk to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA).

Mark Navis, a milk producer who owns a farm in Fond du Lac County, also said DFA has agreed to buy his milk.

DFA is a national dairy marketing cooperative that serves and is owned by more than 13,000 members on nearly 8,000 farms in 48 states.

Both Peirick and Navis said they believe a large number of the 37 milk producers that will no longer be able to sell their milk to Grassland Dairy effective May 1 – and had yet to find a new buyer – were signing contracts with DFA.

But DFA officials will not disclose just how many of the affected producers they have agreed to purchase milk from going forward.

Navis said  if he hadn’t found a buyer for his milk soon, he was likely going to sell his herd of roughly 60 cows.

“My son would have had to go get a job somewhere else and I guess I would have worked my land and maybe get a part-time job somewhere,” said Navis.

His son 26 year-old son Ben is the only other person who works on the farm.

“I wasn’t ready, I don’t think, to quit farming yet. I like doing this,” said Ben.

While the Navis’s are breathing a sigh of relief, Mark believes the Grassland Dairy crisis should serve as a wake-up call for Wisconsin’s dairy industry.

He said the state’s largest farms can’t continue to increase milk production despite a shrinking demand.

“I’ve heard for years – ‘you need to expand your dairy by at least ten percent every year, you’ve got to get bigger, you’ve got to get bigger,'” said Navis. “And when it gets to the point where you can’t go anywhere with the milk anymore, there’s too much out there. It’s that simple.”

Mark said his income is going to go down about five percent with the switch to DFA, but it keeps his farm alive for the foreseeable future.

“You have nights where you wake up in the middle of the night not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Navis. “I had a few sleepless nights because of it. So, it’s nice to have it over with.”

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) said they were aware of DFA working on agreements with some of the affected farmers.

“We are tracking, but the situation is extremely fluid and changing by the hour,” wrote DATCP Communications Director Bill Cosh. “We hope to have a more solid count tomorrow midday.”

Cosh confirmed DFA was one of the groups DATCP had reached out to over the past few weeks about buying milk from the affected producers.




Summer 2018