TAYLORSVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Farmers across the country are feeling the impact of a changing dairy industry. Dozens of local farmers recently received a letter saying Dean Foods would no longer pick up their milk for a couple reasons.
The farmers who will no longer sell to Dean Foods say they were a major buyer. There are many supporting roles on a dairy farm, and without business from the distributor, the farmers fear a bleak future.
"It's devastating for a small rural community and rural family like us," Carolyn Coombs said.
Coombs is a fourth-generation dairy farmer. She was one of more than 20 families in Kentucky to receive a letter from Dean Foods citing low demand and high supply as a reason to end business at the Louisville processing plant.
"The dairy industry is not something you get into to make money," Coombs said.
Dairy demand is declining and Reace Smith, Dean Food s' Director of Corporate Communications, says the opening of a competitor's plant affected over 100 farmers in several states. Smith wouldn't name the competitor, but Walmart recently announce a new processor in Fort Wayne.
"I was devastated, that fact that I may not be able to raise my children on a dairy farm," Coombs said.
Dean Foods will stop picking up milk on May 31. Now Coombs is organizing for the future of dairy farmers.
"This affects 20 plus families, but it's not just those families," Coombs said.
She said if the farmers are forced to sell their cows, they will no longer buy feed or supplies, and they won't need employees.
"There is still a reason why we exist," Coombs said. "It's not all about being bigger. It's about having better quality."
Coombs said she was initially shocked, wondering what she would do with the milk. But now she is ready to find a solution.
"The community can help by buying milk," Coombs said. "Eat as much ice cream as you want. I give you permission."
The group of farmers will meet in Frankfort on Wednesday presenting to the Agricultural Committee.
Ryan Quarles, Kentucky's Commissioner of Agriculture, said he is working with industry leaders to find new markets for the farmers.