Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, 2-7-2020

Vermont agriculture secretary Anson Tebbetts speaks with guests during local watershed groups’ annual winter farm meeting.

ST. ALBANS – Dairy producers may be looking at a brighter year in 2020, Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts told an audience largely made up of farmers Friday.

Speaking during an annual winter farm meeting organized by area watershed groups and the Fairfield-based Agrilab Technologies, Tebbetts said milk prices were projected to

continue rising into 2020 – as were the moods of farmers.

“Milk prices are somewhat stronger this year,” Tebbetts said. “I sense from the [Vermont Farm Show] and from talking with farmers over the last few weeks, there’s a better mood than last year for sure.”

Tebbetts said prices were projected to increase by $2 per hundredweight of milk produced over where those prices were in 2018, a rise that, according to past projections from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, would still place earnings below the cost of production in Vermont.

Milk prices per hundredweight have sat well below the cost of production since at least 2014, when a global oversupply in milk began dropping milk prices domestically.

In the years since, as the amount of milk produced remained relatively constant, longtime family farms began selling their herds and bowing out of agriculture completely.

The Vermont Milk Commission estimated in an early 2019 report that as many as 200 farms had closed between 2013 and 2018, and the Agency of Agriculture reported throughout 2019 that farm losses continued to trouble the Green Mountain State.

While Tebbetts was mostly optimistic as he spoke with farmers, he checked his optimism somewhat, hinting that milk prices would still need to be higher than their current projections and would need to stabilize before worries were over for Vermont’s dairies.

“It’s headed in the right direction,” Tebbetts said. “Of course it needs to go higher and it needs to stay there, and we need to make up for some of the losses that are out there.”

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