Dairy Farmers of America kicks off $30M expansion of St. Albans plant

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 3:41 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 3:42 PM EDT
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - Twenty-five dairy farms have closed down in Vermont since the start of the year. Agriculture officials say 21 of them were due to financial struggles related to the pandemic. But there is some good news when it comes to dairy farms in our region. Dairy Farmers of America says a $30 million investment is on the way to their processing plant in St. Albans.

“It’s busy here,” said Bill McPhail. a project engineer with Dairy Farmers of America. The St. Albans plant produces cream, condensed skim milk, and milk powder. He says the new construction will expand the plant’s processing and storage capacity. “It’s going to make us a lot more efficient in our receiving operations as well as increase our storage capacity.”

The expansion was a part of the agreement when the former St. Albans Co-op merged with the national Dairy Farmers of America about a year ago.

When complete, tanker trucks will have more access and an easier time getting through the facility. “The whole process becomes much more efficient. Less traffic in the residential area and much quicker for the drivers and the farmers,” McPhail said.

He says that even though the milk market is uncertain and demand has dropped during the pandemic, this bg investment will help meet the current production needs of their farmer-members and give them more flexibility to meet specific product demands in the future. "Having the ability to bring more milk, more efficiently and be able to store it here is huge for the farmers," he said.

And that’s something that farmers like Harold Howrigan agree with. “Any time you invest in processing, it’s good for all dairy farmers.

The Fairfield farmer and former Co-op chair, is one of the 300 Vermont farmers that that voted to join DFA. When it comes to the $30 million investment, he's realistic about the benefits. "This won't change the market price. It will just guarantee a home for our milk," Howrigan said.

But the announcement comes at a time when many dairy farms in the state continue to struggle. With restaurants and schools closed, demand for dairy products has declined.

“This expansion comes at a time where we need some positive energy in dairy,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts. He says that it shows the commitment to dairy in our region moving forward. “This signals that dairy is important to the Northeast, in Vermont, and in the Franklin County economy.”

And that gives farmers like Howrigan some hope moving forward. “This will absolutely benefit all remaining farmers.

Construction on the DFA pant is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the year.

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