Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding has sent a letter to Dean Dairy Holdings following the announcement that the company provided termination notices to 42 Pennsylvania dairy farmers, effective May 31, 2018. Redding has requested Dean Foods extend the deadline so that dairy farmers affected may more effectively transition to other markets.
Farmers affected by Dean’s decision have also asked the company to extend their agreements through the end of the year.
“The Department of Agriculture supports the commonwealth’s dairy farmers, and is committed to providing communities with the resources and connections they need to ensure that our dairy industry will thrive in the years to come,” said Sec. Redding. “Expecting farmers to make life-changing decisions in the span of 90 days is difficult enough without all of the complexities associated with a business. These producers need more time to do what is right for them, their families, and their businesses.
The dairy industry is currently experiencing challenges as processors consolidate or move, consumers exercise their purchasing options, and farmers see a surplus of product they are unable to sell.
“We know that there are opportunities and that dairy will remain a key part of our agricultural sector for the foreseeable future, although the decisions dairy farmers and the commonwealth face over the next 12 to 18 months will significantly shape its prospects,” added Redding, pointing to recent studies performed for the Department and the Center for Dairy Excellence.
One study looked at the potential for Pennsylvania to support additional dairy processing capacity. It found the state could support new plants for processing “other” cheeses—or non-American types, including Italian and specialty cheeses—and that those plants could significantly reduce overall supply chain costs, create more than jobs, while also contributing to the economic activity to the state.
Last month, Sec. Redding testified before the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee to discuss the crisis and ways the Department of Agriculture is poised to help. Additionally, the Department last week placed several resources online for dairy farmers experiencing hardship.