Time is ticking for dairy farmers as Dean Foods Company ends contracts

Time is ticking for dairy farmers as Dean Foods Company ends contracts
Dairy farmers in several states are either closing their farms, or hoping for someone to pick up their milk, after Dean Foods Company ended their contract. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Carolyn Coombs and her husband, Curtis, have sold some of their cows, but are trying to hold out for a better option. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Carolyn Coombs and her husband, Curtis, have sold some of their cows, but are trying to hold out for a better option. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Dairy farmers in several states are either closing their farms, or hoping for someone to pick up their milk.

Dean Foods Company will stop picking up milk from about 20 dairy farmers in central Kentucky on May 31.

The company notified 100 farmers in Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina that business with Dean Foods would be ending. Letters were sent out the last week of February.

Since then, several dairy farmers in Kentucky have sold their entire herds. At Jericho Acre Farms, in Henry County, the family is holding out to sell every cow.

"It's almost as if you are losing a family member," Carolyn Coombs said.

Coombs and her husband, Curtis, have sold 30 cows since March. The couple are fourth generation farmers. Around 50 cows remain on their farm, many of the animals they've raised and milk themselves.

"It's heartbreaking to know that it can be taken from us not due to any fault of our own," Coombs said.

Dean Foods Company informed the farmers they were ending contracts because of low demand, and a new processor opening in Northern Indiana. Coombs said she has no other alternative but to sell.

"These girls have to be milked twice a day, every day, or else they could get very sick," Coombs said.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture said they tried to help, but there is too much milk already being produced and they can't find buyers.

"It can't just be a one person makes a call to another person and it's fixed," Coombs said.

The final pick up is in two weeks and by then something has to be done with the milk.

"Maybe at that 11th hour somebody will come through and say, 'You all produce high quality milk and we want to make sure that we provide that to consumers,'" Coombs said.

Coombs said her family is considering going into the ice cream business.

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