Horizon Organic extends contract for Northeast farms

Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 11:32 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2021 at 5:26 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - An extension for two dozen organic dairy farms in Vermont that are preparing to lose the market for their milk.

Back in August, Horizon Organic announced it would be ending milk contracts with organic dairy farms across the Northeast. But now, the company is giving farms more time to prepare for what comes next.

“This extension is encouraging,” Vt. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said. “It gives dairy farmers a little more breathing room to find a new market for their milk.”

Horizon Organic milk cartons will not be leaving the stores throughout the region, however, where that milk comes from is changing. Simply put, farms in the Northeast are just too far away from Horizon’s processing plants.

“We all know hauling is already a challenge in this country. It is exacerbated in this region,” said Chris Adamo of Danone North America, which owns Horizon Organic.

Horizon originally said it would end contracts with 28 Vermont farms next summer. Now, the company has extended that deadline six months to February 2023.

“We want to make sure we are creating the best possible transition for them as they think about their future,” Adamo said.

In addition, Horizon’s parent company announced it is providing transitional payments for milk producers, giving affected farmers access to financial consultants and exploring the possibility of a co-op to address hauling and transportation challenges.

“Our offer is to sit down with others and find some solutions,” Adamo said. “We want to co-invest in those solutions. Not just to benefit us, but to benefit the organic dairy farmers in the entire region.”

Meanwhile, the state’s task force is preparing to send its own recommendations directly to the USDA.

“We are looking at transportation. We are looking at infrastructure,” Tebbetts said. “Could we have more processing of organic milk in Vermont in the Northeast?”

The goal is to find long-term solutions. Not doing so could have a big impact on the region’s working landscape.

“This would be a significant blow if these farmers were to leave our communities. Many of them could be the last farm in their town,” Tebbetts said.

State officials say four organic dairy farms have already gone out of business since August.

Related Stories:

Stoneyfield to take on some Vt. organic dairy farms dropped by Horizon

Milk hauler shortage drives Vermont dairy dilemma

Big organic milk processor to cut ties with farms in the Northeast

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