Local dairy farmers struggle to find new milk processors to buy their supply

Forum held for Wisconsin Farmers struggling to find new milk processors to buy their milk. (WLUK/Amber Luckett)

WRTIGHTSTOWN, Wis. (WLUK) -- In 2017, Wisconsin farmers produced 30.32 billion pounds of milk. That record-breaking number has led to large milk producers to drop some of their suppliers.

In May, Arla Foods, located in southern Brown County, sent letters to 11 suppliers telling them the company would no longer be buying their milk as of July 1.

In a statement to FOX 11, Don Stohrer Jr., the general manager of Arla Foods, said:

Increased production and market volatility are affecting the supply chain in Wisconsin and the entire dairy industry and unfortunately, Arla Foods is no different than many in our industry. We prolonged the decision to part ways with the 11 farmers who supplied our Hollandtown Dairy and absorbed the market volatility for as long as we possibly could in the hope that the market might change. However, we needed to reduce costs in this extremely unpredictable marketplace. Our commitment to the farmers we have worked with was to give them a 60-day notice, which is double the industry average. As a farmer-owned co-op, any decisions involving our relationships with farmers are not made lightly.

Finding a new farm to sell milk to was difficult for farmers like Adam Vanden Wymelenberg. During a forum on Wednesday, Wymelenberg shared his concerns about the farming industry with other local farmers and agriculture officals.

"We're actually in the process of closing on our farm. We were about a month out from closing on a farm that we would own when we received a letter that we had 60 days to find a new plant to ship to," said Wymelenberg. "Everyone works very hard and takes pride in their farms to produce the best product. There should be no reason why they shouldn't be able to market it and sell their product.".

Secretary Sheila Harsdorf from the Wisconsin Department of Agricultural, Trade and Consumer Protection was also at the meeting. She says the state is currently working on a task force to help local farmers.

"Just this week (Gov. Scott Walker) has called on the department and the (University of Wisconsin) Extension to put together a Dairy Task Force 2.0 to really pull stakeholders together and hold a constructive dialogue, and what we need to do to maintain the strong status that we have," said Wymelenberg.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin has more than 9,000 dairy farms: the most in the United States. State agriculture officials say Wisconsin takes the top spot in cheese, and more than 600 different types and styles of cheese are created here.

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