Twenty-six farmers in Lancaster and Lebanon counties were recently notified by Dean Foods that their milk contracts would end May 31st.
The milk was sold under the Swiss Premium brand, but Dean says demand has dropped so much, it can no longer purchase the same volume.
Kirby Horst, who owns a dairy farm outside Richland, Lebanon County and received a notice, says this is not a good time of year to try and find a new buyer.
“It’s called the ‘spring flush.’ There’s always a lot of milk in spring here, March, April, May. So a lot of these milk companies are not looking for any new producers to take on at this point in time,” he said, adding it would better for the contracts to end in the fall or winter.
Horst says if dairymen can’t find new markets, they’ll be forced to sell off their cows, probably for a fraction of what they’re worth.
“It’s going to be another hit to the farmer, the dairymen, if we have to sell our herds at a reduced price. I mean, we’re going to get pennies on the dollar what they’re actually worth,” he said.
In a statement, Dean Foods said, “We continue to purchase local Pennsylvania milk based on the current demand. We recognize the difficulty farmers are facing as a result of the decision, but we are unable to continue to purchase milk for which there is no demand. We explored all our options before we made this decision. At this time, we can’t extend the contracts further. As a fluid milk processing company, we are unable to store milk long-term.”
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