Letter: take a moment to celebrate our dairy farmers

To the Editor

Letters1There is certainly no better time to enjoy a few scoops of ice cream or a refreshing glass of milk than in June during National Dairy Month. While celebrating can be delicious and fun, it is also an opportunity to take time to reflect on our farms in Chester County and what impact dairy farms have on our lives.

Our 280 dairy farms and 18,900 cows produce enough milk for our 500,000 county residents and a further 140,000 people in surrounding counties and states. Our milk is truly a local food.

In Pennsylvania a cow produces an average of 21,201 lbs. of milk a year or 57.8 lbs. or 6.7 gallons per day.

Milk, particularly low fat milk, is healthy and an excellent source of protein, calcium and several vitamins.

Milk is also cheap. At $4/gallon, a cup of milk costs 25 cents, so cheaper than a can of soda.

Total dairy farm revenue in our county is $77.8 million with an estimated economic impact on Chester County from dairy farming of $258 million. Dairy operations generate more than $6 billion for the Pennsylvania economy.

Dairy farmers generate jobs, in fact one job for every nine cows. Therefore the dairies in Chester County provide 2,100 employment opportunities. Additionally studies show that the average dairy farmer spends around 85% of his/her income locally, strengthening their communities and surrounding areas.

Several years ago, dairy farmers struggled through one of the worst periods of low milk prices ever. Milk prices in 2009 and early 2010 were terribly low, well below the cost of production, and the entire industry’s future was threatened throughout the state and nation. Some farmers who were facing debts before the economic downturn were forced out of business. But with hard work and determination, many farms survived and are continuing to produce a safe and healthy product for all of us to enjoy.

Keep in mind that many farmers who survived that downturn are still facing large debts. Even though milk prices have rebounded, they are still quite volatile and far beyond the control of the individual farmer. What’s more, input costs are rising, putting an even greater squeeze on the already thin margins of dairy farm families.

Chester County residents can visit several dairies offering milk and ice cream such as Kolb’s Farm Store in Spring City, Milky Way Farm in Chester Springs and Baily’s Dairy in Pocopson and many local artisan cheese makers such as Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester Springs, Conebella Farm in Elverson and September Farm in Honey Brook. We encourage you and readers to visit these and other local farms and enjoy their dairy products.

So as we celebrate National Dairy Month, please take time to reflect on the hard work of dairy farmers and the supporting businesses that helped get that glass of milk from the farm to your table.

                                    Dan Miller, President

                           Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau

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