The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said over the past five years the number of dairy farmers in the commonwealth has declined throughout the end of 2019.
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Paulson said many of those dairy farmers switched to farming chickens or beef and are not out of the farming business for good.

In 2019, there were 571 dairy farms in Virginia and at the start of 2019, that number fell to 514. VDACS said as of Dec 31. there were 469 farms dropping more than 100 in two years

Eric Paulson of the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association said the cost of milk is one of the reasons why this is happening across the country.

He said as the price of milk gets lower for consumers it puts more of a strain on farmers, who have to constantly milk and feed their cows.

“We don’t set the price, dairy farmers don’t set the price they ship the milk and they found out what they get paid for the following month,” Paulson said. “So it’s very difficult when the market dictates prices like that and you have no way to increase it.”

He said some farms have gone into agri-tourism or selling other dairy products like cheeses, yogurt and ice cream to offset some of the cost.

“We have some farms that are doing things like selling other products, a lot of farms are diversifying,” Paulson said. “You might have them up also doing some poultry or another crop as well to kind of diversify their operation.”

Paulson said in the later half of 2019, the price of milk began to go up again and expects it to continue to rise throughout 2020. Although he said the damage that has been done will take years of rising prices for farmers to recover.

Fluid milk consumption has seen a decline among US consumers since the 1960s.

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