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The New York Times reports this morning that “as the trend toward organic food consumption slows after years of explosive growth, no sector is in direr shape than the $1.3 billion organic milk industry. Farmers nationwide have been told to cut milk production by as much as 20 percent, and many are talking of shutting down … in New England, where dairy farms are as much a part of the landscape as whitewashed churches and rocky beaches, organic dairy farmers are bearing the brunt of the nationwide slowdown, in part because of the cost of transporting feed from the Midwest. The contracts of 10 of Maine’s 65 organic dairies will not be renewed by HP Hood, one of the region’s three large processors. In Vermont, 32 dairy farms have closed since Dec. 1, significantly altering the face of New England’s dairy industry.”

And it gets worse: “For many farmers, the changes coincide with crushing debt resulting from the cost of turning organic, which can run hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, the price of organic feed has doubled in the last year. Credit has dried up for some, and others say it is nearly impossible to sell cows and so thin their herds.”

The Times notes that “some farmers are considering selling their organic milk on the conventional market just to make some quick money. Others are looking to sell raw, or unpasteurized, milk directly to the public.”

KC's View:
Yikes.

For a lot of people, organic milk is where they decided to draw the line as they were trying to decide how to reorient shopping and food consumption priorities during a recession. What’s hard to know is how this gets walked back if/when the economy gets better…how difficult it will be to reinvent a decimated industry.