On Oct. 30 the Jamaica, NY, Elmhurst Dairy processing plant will close its doors affecting “8,300 stores and 1,400 public schools,” while also impacting dairy farms across New York State.
“This development is only going to cause more market disruption to a market that is already suffering from a shortage of processing capacity here in the Northeast,” said CCE CNY Dairy Specialist Dave Balbian.
Rob and Shannon Dygert of Dygert’s Dairy, Nelliston, NY, say they received a phone call from the milk inspector from Worcester Creamery telling them they were being dropped and to expect a follow-up letter.
“He said they were closing the plant in the city due to financial reasons and we were one of the farms they are letting go. We have until October 1st to find a new milk market,” said Dygert. “We got the letter through Fed Ex the next day.”
Dygert, who milks 150 Holsteins and whose farm has recently been awarded the honor of being declared a ‘Dairy of Distinction’, said they have called about 30 different markets, but, with the exception of one, all say they are already full. Dygert’s ship about 11,000 pounds per day.
Dygert’s multi-generation farm was started in 1723 and has recently been upgraded to include two, 100-cow free stall barns, a double 8 parallel milking parlor, bunker silos, new manure storage and several other environmentally friendly upgrades.
Winsor Acres Dairy, established in the 1940’s, is located near Binghamton.
Co-owner Glenn Winsor said they are milking more than 1,500 head on the home dairy and another 850 at a second farm. “We are producing in the neighborhood of 180,000 pounds per day,” Winsor commented. “We were notified by letter and phone that we have 60 days to find a different milk market.”
Winsor said they have made phone calls to other processors and are waiting to hear back. “At this point, we believe we have a place to go, but nothing is final.
Winsor says right now they’re still processing at the Jamaica plant and someone will have step in to pick up the contracts left open for the schools and other customers. “No one knows at this point who will pick up those contracts. I’m optimistic.”
Mary Lou Broadwell, DVM, and her husband Randy of DVM & Husband Dairy, Sprakers, NY, are milking 190 head of Holsteins and Brown Swiss. The Broadwells have been marketing their milk to Elmhurst through Worcester Creameries since 2005. “They gave us 60 days. Everything is in limbo right now,” said Broadwell. “We are exploring different options and we’re hoping we can find a market.”
“It’s discouraging to work so hard to produce a high quality product and then be told it’s no longer wanted,” said Broadwell.
Broadwells were planning to make major farm purchases when they received the news that their farm was one of those to be dropped. “This affects all of our local economy,” Broadwell said, explaining the nearly all dairy farms are essential to the local economies where they purchase animal feed and farm supplies. “Everything is on hold now. It’s pretty much a waiting game.”
Broadwell says being in dairy farming requires that you have to remain optimistic. “But if we don’t find an outlet, we’re done.”
“It’s certainly possible that some farms will be forced to sell their cows as they are left out in the cold without a market,” said Balbian. “It will be interesting to see if other fluid milk plants will be able to fill the gap caused by Elmhurst shutting down. I would not be surprised to see some New York City schools occasionally without school milk as the transition to other plants takes place.”
Balbian said this would be an ironic situation. “A shortage of milk in schools while the northeast is awash in milk at the farm level!”
Shannon Dygert, with three children under 5 years old, remains optimistic. “We should be able to find somebody to market our milk to. The more contacts you make, the more people you let know, the better off you are!” Dygert said.