Declining Demand for Milk Leaves 52 New York Dairies ‘Scrambling’

Dairies continue to struggle for survival. And for 52 of them in New York, the end may be near.

All 52 dairies lost their wholesale contracts to supply milk to Marcus Dairy, a Danbury, Connecticut, milk processor. On May 19, 2018, Marcus Dairy informed them that their contracts would not be renewed when they ended on June 30.

The dairies now have no alternative buyer in place for their milk as of July 1, 2018.

Dairy closures aren’t news anymore, of course. In Sullivan County, New York, alone, 60 dairies closed their doors in the last 40 years. But that doesn’t mean the remaining dairy farmers aren’t attempting to survive. In fact, they’re trying everything they can to stay afloat.

“I don’t know how you milk an almond, but, whatever,” aggrieved farmer Alice Diehl of the Diehl Family Dairy Farm told CBS New York. “We’re scrambling to find another creamery to take us on and buy our milk wholesale.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Something of a perfect storm now roils the dairy industry. China’s producing more milk for international sale. Walmart now has its own milk bottling plant in Indiana. Statistically, Americans drink 37 percent less cow’s milk today than they did in 1970.

What are consumers drinking instead? Plant-based milk, of course. We now have a wide array of plant-based milks to choose from. Take a peek at the dairy section of your local supermarket these days, and you’ll find ever-increasing shelf space for dairy-free products.

That’s simply a reflection of market demand. It’s no wonder that the dairy industry is fighting so hard to get the Food and Drug Administration to forbid manufacturers from calling plant-based milks a type of “milk.” Milk, they insist, must come from an animal.

But consumers aren’t buying plant-based milk because they’re mistakenly grabbing the wrong carton week after week. They left dairy for a reason.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Nowadays, consumers can select milks, cheeses and yogurts made from almonds, soy, cashews, oats, hemp, coconut, rice and more. Whether you’re lactose intolerant or dairy-free for the sake of the cows and the planet, there are choices out there that make dairy obsolete for many of us.

What are the New York dairies doing to help themselves? Are they changing with the times? Adjusting to consumer demand? Not really — not most of them, anyway. Instead, many dairies are looking for legislative fixes to better protect their industry.

“Elected officials can deal with this now,” Wes Gillingham, co-director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, told CBS New York. “They need to act now and address the problem and fix the situation that we’ve gotten ourselves into.”

Farmers are looking for things like a legislatively-mandated floor for milk prices, so they cannot drop lower than the cost of production.  Dairy operators also want to reverse an Obama-era policy banning the sale of whole milk in schools.

No one wants to see American farmers struggle and perish. The answer, though, can’t be to legislatively prop up a cruel and dying industry.

Other dairies have shuttered their doors and come back with a new, more sustainable idea for the future. Some have even switched to producing plant-based milk. They’re the smart ones.

Rather than trying to preserve an industry that’s on its way out, struggling dairy farmers should make changes while they still can. Plant-based is the future.

Photo Credit: Farm Watch/Flickr

76 comments

Danii P
Danii P2 hours ago

Thank you for posting!

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Danii P
Danii P2 hours ago

Thank you for posting!

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Danii P
Danii P2 hours ago

Thank you for posting!

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Jeff Idso
Jeff I6 hours ago

I am grateful to the millennial generation for making smart food choices. Eliminating animal products is the only way to stop the abuse. There is no humane way to factory farm a sentient being.

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Toni W
Toni W20 hours ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W20 hours ago

I hate to hear of farmers going out of business, but I do applaud the end of a cruel industry towards animals.

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Barb S
Barb Syesterday

Dairy is unhealthy so it is good to have plant alternatives.

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Latoya B

I can't believe in 2018 milk is still a thing.

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Barbara I
Barbara Iyesterday

The dairy industry needs to go away. Eating animal products is unhealthy. Cows milk is for their calves not for humans.

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Lesa D
Lesa Dyesterday

don't 'got milk?'

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