For Immediate Release - September 17, 2009

Massachusetts Joins Other New England States Launch Initiative to Aid Northeast Dairy Farmers

RICHMOND, VT- Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott Soares joined agriculture secretaries from New Hampshire and Vermont today to announce a new program that aims to ensure dairy farmers in the Northeast are paid a sustainable price for their milk.

The Keep Local Farms program-inspired by the Fair Trade concept-will help provide more money directly to dairy farmers while creating stronger connections between farmers and their customers by encouraging consumers to support local dairy farmers. The program was developed by the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council, the New England Family Dairy Farm Cooperative (NEFDFC) and the New England Dairy Promotion Board.

"This ground-breaking program will help New England dairy farmers stay afloat in an increasingly challenging economic climate," said DAR Commissioner Soares. "I am pleased to work with my fellow northeast agricultural departments to help preserve our dairy industry."

The program will help New England dairy producers brand their goods with a "Keep Local Farms" logo as a way to notify consumers that the product is locally produced. The program encourages consumers to pay a slightly higher price for local milk in order to directly support local dairy farms.

In addition, NEFDFC will collect direct contributions for local dairy farmers at online at: http://www.KeepLocalFarms.org, and distribute funds to NEFDFC members to assure that dairy farmers are paid a sustainable price for their goods. Initial payments will be made at least every six months, coinciding with months when farmers have high expense such as April or May during the spring planting and at the fall harvest in September or October.

"Our dairy farmers are the backbone of agriculture in Vermont. They are stewards of the land and contribute significantly to our economy and way of life," said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee. "There is not a dairy farmer in the state who has not been impacted by this crisis and while not a silver bullet, Keep Local Farms is a way for people to support this important industry and help dairy farmers get a more equitable price for their product."

"We encourage consumers to purchase and enjoy nutritious, high quality and dairy products from our New England dairy farms," stated Darryl Williams, Dairy Farmer and board member of the New England Family Dairy Farm Cooperative, "And if consumers would like to do more to support dairy farmers the Keep Local Farms program helps them do that."

Dairy farmers across the Northeast and the nation are struggling to survive due to the low prices they are paid for their milk and the high cost to produce milk. Massachusetts lost ten dairy farms in the last year, dropping from 182 to 172. All of New England has lost about 100 farms in the past year. It costs the average dairy farmer about $1.80 to produce one gallon of milk, while the dairy farmers get paid about 97 cents per gallon of milk. New England produces $12.2 billion in milk and creates more than $5 billion in economic activity. There are approximately 1880 farms in New England and 99 percent of them are small, with fewer than 100 cows per farm. In Massachusetts dairy farms provide more than 22,000 jobs.

For more information on the Keep Local Farms program click here,

or call 877-388-7381.

The DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate, and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production.