Farm Bureau not concerned for local dairies in Dean Foods bankruptcy
Dean Foods — the largest milk processor and distributor in the country— filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. Many point to the decline in milk consumption nationwide as the source of their issues.
But Delaware Farm Bureau President Richard Wilkins says First State dairy farmers are not concerned about the company’s reorganization.
Wilkins considers the region’s member-owned dairy cooperatives, which buy milk from farmers, process it and sell some to other processors including Dean Foods, a buffer.
“We have strong cooperatives here in the Mid-Atlantic region," he said. "So with the Dean Foods bankruptcy, there’s absolutely no fear that a dairy farmer would have that they’re not going to get paid for milk that they’re going to get shipped.”
Wilkins adds he’s confident Dean Foods' regional processing plants will not close. “We believe that the processing facilities owned by Dean in our region are modern enough, they’re new enough, they’re operating at efficient capacity that they will continue to operate.”
Wilkins notes the number of dairy farmers in Delaware has dropped significantly in the last two decades— particularly in recent years. He blames low milk prices and the cost of land.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at the beginning of this year there were 4,500 milk cows in Delaware.