It’s important to remember that dairy farms across
Pennsylvania have a breadth of options and resources at their disposal as they
consider their next step. Some of these options include:
- Engaging the Center for Dairy Excellence to access a wealth of business tools to help manage
production costs and optimize herd health.
- Transitioning to organic, as several of the
larger retail grocery chains operating in Pennsylvania are bringing in their
private label organic milk from other states because we don’t produce enough in
- Researching affordable financing options.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development has a wide range
of financing programs for small businesses available through your county’s Certified
Economic Development Organization. USDA Rural Development also offers its Value-Added
Producer Grant program that can help one or a group of farmers finance a
feasibility study, business plan, and some of the equipment needed.
- Diversifying income sources. Since most
dairy farmers in Pennsylvania grow their own corn and soybeans, one option to
consider is transitioning some acreage to organic production methods. Particularly for soybeans, demand for
Pennsylvania-grown organic feed grains for the state’s booming organic poultry
industry is large and growing.
- Utilizing direct marketing services, as
consumer interest in buying locally is at an all-time high. What’s more, Pennsylvania allows the sale of
raw milk, provided sellers register for a permit with the Department of
Agriculture and allow quarterly inspections by the Bureau
of Food Safety.
- Working with other
farmers to form a cooperative or join one that already exists. Along with USDA, PDA works with the Keystone Development Center, which helps new
and emerging cooperatives.
- Offering an internship or taking
an apprenticeship, as there are many dairy farmers with great ideas out there,
and others who are anxious to learn. The Center for Dairy Excellence operates
an internship program that can help college students get real-world experience,
while bringing energy and fresh ideas to the farm. Farmers considering transitioning to grazing
can find apprenticeship opportunities at: https://www.dga-national.org/.
- Taking another look
at the Margin Protection Program
(MPP). Congress recently made changes to MPP to improve its effectiveness in
states like Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s
local Farm Service Agency offices will hold a new sign-up period upon the
rollout of the new provisions, and those already in MPP will receive a letter
from FSA about the program changes.
- Mental health services are
available to Pennsylvanians throughout the commonwealth through county Mental
Health and Developmental Services offices. To find a county office that can provide referrals, visit
the Pennsylvania Association of County
Administrators of Mental Health and Developmental Services webpage.
The Department of Agriculture supports the commonwealth’s
dairy farmers, and is committed to providing communities with the resources and
connections they need to ensure that our dairy industry will thrive in the
years to come. To be successful, though, will require new ways of thinking.
The Dairy Development Plan can be found here.
The Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program was established under Act 42 of 2018 and will provide $5 million in grants to eligible applicants for researching new technologies, products and best practices; marketing to new domestic and international markets and exploring new business opportunities to diversify their operation and revenue streams; transitioning to organic production methods; and incorporating or expanding value-added dairy production, such as cheese and yogurt products. Learn more about the program here.