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‘Scary scene’ for New York dairy farmers

Cheaper milk on grocery store shelves is bad news for dairy farmers. It’s the fourth year of falling milk prices, and the crisis is hitting farm families hard.

“There have been farms that have gone out of business,” said Elizabeth Wolters of the New York Farm Bureau. “Farms have had to take out additional lines of credit. Some farms have had to have sales of livestock and/or equipment. So it is really challenging.”

In February, lead dairy co-op Agri-Mark included suicide prevention literature with payment checks following the suicide of one of the dairy farmers in its network. “I think it’s really important information for all farmers to have, especially in these down times,” Wolters said.

Skip Jensen, state Farm Bureau field adviser for the Finger Lakes region, said when he sold his cows in 1997, he got about the same price dairy farmers are getting now for their milk. Farmers are losing money and it’s “a really, really scary scene,” Jensen said.

“The impact here is pretty simple,” said dairy farmer Hal Adams of Black Brook Farm in Farmington. “Our net income right now is zero.”

Dairy farmer Adams and his wife Kerri have run Black Brook Farm since the 1980s. They consider themselves among the luckier dairy farmers. Right now, a good month at Black Brook means that the Adamses pay the bills without borrowing money. They’ve had to work longer hours to make that work. But for many farmers, the reality is much bleaker.

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