Low milk costs mean tough times for dairy farmers across the Commonwealth, leaving many with no choice but to shut down.
At one time, Erie County was home to dozens of dairy farms; that’s no longer the case. Farmers say the business as a whole is to blame, but they tell us policy changes and support from the state could be a turning point.
After more than 80 years in business, the barns at Curtis Dairy are now empty. You can see in the video what the facility looked like just a few months ago, housing more than 300 cows.
Dean Curtis tells us, “It hurts when I think of all the years that I put in here and to see it go away. You know, it’s hard.”
Curtis says there just isn’t money in the industry anymore, and he says the problem comes down to the cost of milk. “You look back in history; in the 80’s, we were getting more money back in the 80’s than we are now for a hundred of milk.”
It’s a dilemma forcing farms across the Commonwealth to shut down. That’s why Governor Tom Wolf approved $5 million dispersed among eligible applicants. The money is part of the Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program.
A representative with the Center for Dairy Excellence, Jayne Sebright, told us in Facetime interview that incentivizing farmers to build their infrastructure is key. “Encouraging that growth and that reinvestment is really important for allowing our dairy industry to continue to be strong in Pennslyvania.”
Curtis says the investment program is a step in the right direction, but a long time coming. “The state could implement lots of policies and lots of help. The grants are just a grant and sometimes they’re matching grants. You have to put money with them, and the money’s not there.”
Experts say the dairy industry contributes about $15 billion in annual economic revenue and supports more than 52,000 jobs.