Dairy demand creates some concern for farmers

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LEXINGTON—Jennifer Leech, a Rockbridge County dairy farmer, said she and her family recently were calculating how much milk it would take to make cheese for every pizza in Lexington.

She and her family operate Ingleside Dairy Farm and she explained that like many dairy farmers, they can produce more milk than the demand for it. Often they are seeking creative avenues for their fluid milk.

“None of our milk goes to waste; we have buyers for it. But as an industry, we often are producing over the milk demand,” Leech shared. “Demand is down on milk across the country, but dairy farmers are still producing milk. It has to go somewhere.”

She said she and other dairy farmers are getting creative with ways to get fluid milk into the hands of consumers. She added that consumers should see an emergence of new products in upcoming years.

The Leeches dairy is getting by, but there is industry wide concern that consumers’ demand for fluid milk will continue to decline. On a positive note, she said cheese and butter consumption is increasing.

U.S. dairy farmers are currently struggling through a fourth year of depressed milk prices due to a global oversupply of milk and lower prices overseas, said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“The dairy industry has seen some challenging times over the past several years,” Banks said. “Milk prices are down, demand is down, and there’s an oversupply of milk. That has most dairy farmers concerned. The prolonged period of tight margins can make farmers grow concerned over the future of their farms.”

According to The Dairy Alliance, there are about 90,000 milk cows on 615 dairy farms in Virginia. The state ranks 24th in the country in terms of milk production, and 14th in the number of licensed dairy operations. A total of 492.5 million pounds of milk comes from Rockingham County, followed by Pittsylvania County with 159.1 million pounds, Franklin County with 153.8 million pounds, Augusta County with 125.3 million pounds and Washington County with 44.2 million pounds.

Media: Contact Banks at 804-290-1114.

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