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October 13, 2021

NH yogurt company may buy from Maine, Northeast dairies hurt by Danone pullout

Courtesy / U.S. Department of Agriculture Stonyfield Organic Yogurt will expand its direct supply network to help Northeast family farms.

Yogurt maker Stonyfield Organic will expand its supplier network, offering a potential lifeline to Maine organic family farms left in the lurch by the end of milk contracts with Danone S.A.’s Horizon Organic brand.

Stonyfield, based in Londonderry, N.H., will invite an unspecified number of family farms into its direct supply program in the coming months, the company said in a news release Wednesday. The move comes after 89 regional family farmers recently received notice that their contracts would be terminated next year by Horizon, leaving them no outlet for their milk.

“This is not something new for us. Supporting organic family farms has been at the heart of our DNA since the day Stonyfield started as an organic farming school in Wilton, N.H., back in 1983,” said Gary Hirshberg, co-founder. 

Stonyfield has not added to its direct supply program for at least three years due to an oversupply in the organic dairy market. This marks the first time that Stonyfield is making an exception because of the dire situation for the organic dairy farmers.

Danone recently told 14 Maine organic dairy farms, and 65 others throughout the Northeast, that their contracts would end in August 2022. Dairy goods, Maine’s second largest agricultural products, have struggled with increasing production costs and falling consumer prices.

Last month, thirteen congressional members from New England urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to intervene on behalf of the farms being dropped by French food conglomerate Danone.

“The potential loss of 89 organic family farms would be a devastating loss for our region and our environment. When we heard about the contract terminations, we knew we had to step up and help as many farms as we possibly could, beginning with our initial commitment to take a group of these farms into our program,” Hirshberg said.

Stonyfield said it launched an internal task force of senior company leaders to work with various state departments of agriculture, nonprofit organizations, retailers and institutional food customers to find ways to keep more of these farms in business.

Stonyfield supports over 200 small, organic farms in the Northeast through its milk supplier relationship with Organic Valley and its direct supplier program. Stonyfield also provides technical assistance, funding and mentorship to farms with which it directly contracts.

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