Connecticut dairy farmers in crisis

Business

(WTNH) — Connecticut’s dairy farms pump millions of dollars into the state economy every year but those farmers are struggling to survive.

There are now just 99 dairy farms left in Connecticut with a combined herd of about 20,000 cows. About ten dairy farmers have sold their herds over the past year because it’s become so difficult to earn a living.

The state restored about $1.4 million in subsidies last year helping some dairy farms survive low milk prices but the high cost of operating in Connecticut combined with the low price continue to put the squeeze on dairy farmers.

“It’s been a real hard five years. There are a lot of ups and downs, three year cycles, and we’ve been on a down for five years,” said Ned Ellis of Mapleleaf Farm in Hebron.

Ned was just one of many dairy farmers from around the state telling state lawmakers that they need just a little help in order to break even.

Amanda Freund of Freunds Farm in East Canaan said, “We’ve done a lot of things to stay viable. We’ve diversified our farm business but it’s not enough to be able to keep our doors open if we don’t have state support.”

The trade and tariff battle between the Trump Administration and other countries directly affect the price Connecticut dairy farms can charge for milk.

James “Cricket” Jacquier of Laurelbrook farm in East Canaan explaining, “The impacts that are happening in China, in Mexico, all of these trade negotiations, move product back into the United States and there to depress prices that we have.”

A small special fund, partially paid for by real estate filing fees, has helped the dairy farms stay afloat.

Jim Smith of Cushman Farms in Franklin said, “What we really need is to have that fund stay fully funded and that would help us, you know, it levels the playing field, helps us be successful here in Connecticut.”

In some recent tough state budget years, that fund has been cut several times reducing payments to dairy farmers by more than half.

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