As the region’s dairy farmers face their worst economic crisis in decades, dairyman and Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith, joined by the local ad hoc committee Wayne Agriculture Tomorrow, will convene a Wayne Dairy Farmers Focus Group to seek a way forward for this struggling local industry. Once the mainstay of the local economy and a way of life for generations, new threats now face dairy farmers, as evidenced by the termination of milk contracts for a number of dairy farms in neighboring Sullivan County, NY and dozens of farms in other New York and Pennsylvania counties.
“The time has come for us dairy farmers to get together and talk about how we can address our common problems and where they seem insurmountable to listen to some expert advice on things we might consider doing to improve our situation for our family-owned-and-operated dairy farms,” Smith said. “There is no reason for farmers to be suffering alone when we are all in the same boat. The question is: can we come up with some positive steps to take if we all put our heads together? All Wayne County dairy farmers, big and small, are invited to this brainstorming session.”
The Wayne Dairy Farmers Focus Group will meet on Wednesday, June 27 at the county’s Park Street Complex, 648 Park St. The session will begin at 11 a.m. and discussion will last as long as farmers want. Lunch will be served; RSVP for the purpose of a lunch count is requested. To RSVP, contact Ellen Korb at 570/253-5334.
A briefing for news media will follow at 2 p.m.
Among those present to listen and discuss potential steps to address the dairy crisis will be Philip Gottwals, an agricultural economist who—thanks to a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission—is working to produce an economic development plan for agriculture in Wayne County. Since the spring, Gottwals has been meeting to interview many local farmers, and the idea for convening a dairy focus group came from several dairy farmers themselves. According to Gottwals, “Dairy farmers expressed an interest in building stronger ties with consumers that may result in greater demand for milk products. This meeting is the first step in the process.”
Looking ahead to the focus group for livestock producers, Bob Muller Jr., co-chair of Wayne Agriculture Tomorrow said, “The potential for economic growth for new and existing livestock producers is huge. Working with farmers and the wider agribusiness community and getting input from them is essential to advancing agriculture in Wayne County’s future.”
For more information about the Wayne Dairy Farmers Focus Group and the Wayne Livestock Produces Focus Group, contact Bob Muller Jr. at 570/448-9017.
The River Reporter