After years of bad milk prices, farmers are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
Philadelphia farmer Mike Kiechle has only been getting about $1,200 for every 100 pounds of milk he sells for the past 5 years. But when the milk truck comes at the end of this month, he expects it will be a different story.
“Last month I think was $12.40. I’m expecting it will jump to $17,” said Kiechle, owner of Garden of Eden Stock Farm.
The sudden jump in the milk market is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which had many farmers dumping their milk and losing thousands of dollars just a few weeks ago.
“What we’re seeing now is the USDA Food Box Program that was created to buy a lot of food product, including dairy, and get those out to people in need because of the COVID-19 disaster. They’re buying a lot of dairy products, especially cheese products,” said Jefferson County Agricultural Coordinator Jay Matteson.
That has inflated milk prices for now and the price projections for the end of the summer and fall are looking up as well as restaurants and schools reopen.
That means farmers will be able to secure decently-priced contracts with dairy producers and gamble with a small percent of their milk on the spot market.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Kiechle.
If farmers do manage to get a price hike in the milk market this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be rolling in money.
The last 5 years the milk market has been down, farmers have had to take out a lot of money in loans.
If this year goes as it’s expected to go, they can start to pay those off.
“It takes a farm years to recover from 5 years of losses,” said Matteson.
But this is certainly a good start.