COLCHESTER (AP) -- Despite a decline in dairy farms in Vermont milk production is constant and farmers are getting record-high prices for their milk, state agriculture officials said.
The demand for dairy products has risen, particularly overseas, said Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. Drought conditions in the West and Midwest also have also contributed to flat milk production in the U.S., which has driven up the price paid to farmers, she said.
"California, the far West can usually crank production up quickly. But there’s not a lot of feed available and what is (available) is extremely expensive," she told Vermont Public Radio (http://bit.ly/1iJ11o3). "Things will change. The Midwest got a lot of snow this winter, the drought conditions should be alleviated. Milk prices go up, production increases and milk prices go down."
The USDA says farmers are receiving a minimum of $23.57 per hundred pounds of milk. In 2009, prices dropped to less than $12 per hundred pounds of milk, which was far lower than the production costs.
The current price is the highest going back to records from 1977, and prices are expected to remain strong for the rest of the year, Bothfeld said.
But with the higher prices, farmers are able to pay off debt and some may consider going out of business, she said.
"In the bad year of 2009 when milk prices were very low, people incurred a lot of debt," Bothfeld said.
"The ability to catch up, pay off those debts ... Some farmers who are waiting or hoping to get out the business may take that opportunity now."
Vermont has lost 40 dairy farms in the first three months of this year and now has 889, she said.