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New England News

Local Dairy Co-Op Votes To Merge With National Coop

Dairy cow
WAMC/Pat Bradley
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Dairy cow (file)

Members of the 100-year-old St. Albans Cooperative recently approved merging its assets, which include a milk hauling company and a creamery plant, with Kansas-based Dairy Farmers of America.
The 99 to 9 vote by St. Albans Cooperative farmer members from Vermont, New York and New Hampshire was held at the end of July.  August 1, the coop merged with Dairy Farmers of America, or DFA,  which has 8,100 farms across the country and is based in Kansas City. DFA has promised to invest millions to help the co-op upgrade its Vermont assets, including a processing plant and a milk hauling business.
Dairy farmer and Vermont Farm Bureau board member Jackie Folsom expects the merger will help farmers stay in business.  “Because part of the issue is with so much milk nobody’s taking any new farmers. So if they would have tried to move to let’s say Agrimark they probably wouldn’t have had their milk picked up. I’m really glad that Dairy Farmers of America is making the investment in the St. Albans Coop. They’re taking over the trucking and they’re going to put some much needed money into their infrastructure up there. And I think it gives some stability to those farmers at St. Albans.”

Folsom doesn’t think the merger will make a difference in the price dairy farmers get for their milk.  “It won’t make a difference for the price to the farmers because that’s set at a federal level. But it will add stability to the region because everybody’s got a market for their milk.”

Northeast Dairy Farmers’ Cooperatives Senior Dairy Policy Advisor Robert Gray notes that DFA and the St. Albans Coop have been working together for several years and says the merger is a natural continuation of what they’ve been doing.  “Dairy Farmers of America has several processing facilities in the Northeast and they’ve spent over $300 million over the last few years in refurbishing plants, building new plants. They’re going to put more money into I believe into the plant at St. Albans, the coop plant, and they have established a real firm footing in the Northeast to process various dairy products and strengthen the ability to market milk in the region. So it to me is a good move getting the coops and getting the dairy producers to have much more of a marketing capability through DFA.”

Dairy Economist Bob Wellington works for another dairy coop, Agrimark, which merged with Cabot in 1992.  He says the St. Albans merger is a positive move that reflects the difficult volatility in dairy prices for farmers.  "We have forecasts for next year and they’re up about a dollar from this year on average. We’re looking at a  Boston price approaching $19. So those are good prices from where they’ve been so that’s somewhat good news. I mean there is assessments that are going on with some of the cooperatives. We don’t have one at Agrimark and I’m not sure what the other coop’s assessments are so I don’t want to speak to that. But it’s a difficult time I think for the Northeast. The industry’s changing rapidly.”

108 of the St. Albans Coop’s 307 members voted.

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