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December 16, 2016

Maine's dairy farmers seek 'fair marketplace'

Maine dairy farmers say their industry in general could use help from Congress in their efforts to provide milk to customers in a fair marketplace.

They made their comments at a recent roundtable hosted by 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, at the Maine Farm Bureau in Augusta, WABI TV reported.

Many in Maine’s dairy industry are seeking to leverage both the organic foods and value-added trends in order to make their operations profitable.

The discussion came as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Farm Bill for 2018.

The number of commercial dairy farms in Maine has declined considerably since 1985, when there were approximately 1,000 commercial dairy farms in Maine, according to a report by the University of Maine’s Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station. Today, fewer than 300 dairy farms remain.

The decline is due in part to the aging farming population coupled with low numbers of incoming farmers. But the volume of milk produced in the state has remained relatively constant throughout these changes in farm numbers, reflecting an increase in production per cow and movement of the best cows from farms going out of business to those still in business. The industry is worth a half-billion dollars.

“Dairy farmers want to make sure they are recognized at the marketplace for the quality product that they are producing. They want to have a government policy that doesn’t interfere, [and] at the same time, doesn’t harm the work that they’re doing,” Brad Pfaff, deputy administrator for Farm Programs, USDA Farm Service Agency, said at the roundtable.

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