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Numbers don't add up for dairies

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Articles - February 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
0211_MalloriesMilkThe closing of a longtime Oregon dairy has delivered another blow to an already fragile industry suffering from declining milk prices and rising feed costs. Five years ago Oregon had about 330 dairy farms that produced and sold milk. Today it has 280.

Silverton-based Mallorie’s Dairy closed last month after more than 50 years of producing and distributing milk to Mid-Willamette Valley grocers. Officials for the dairy said the combination of low milk prices and rising feed costs made it difficult to remain profitable.

“It was a very well run operation, extremely efficient,” says Jim Krahn, executive director for the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association. “What was sobering about Mallorie’s was that they had been in existence for a long time, and had been a legend in the industry to that extent.”

The dairy was founded in 1954 by Robert Mallorie and remained a family-run operation when his children, Rick and Teri, continued to run the company after his death in 1996. The business employed more than 50 people full time and had around 3,000 dairy cows.

In Oregon and across the rest of the U.S., dairy producers have been facing declining milk prices while suffering from rising feed costs since late 2008, along with an oversupply problem.

“[When] the economy went south in ’08 we lost a lot of exports,” says Krahn. “Our surplus built up and we are still sitting on it. We simply have too much of it.” In 2009, Oregon’s dairy farm production was valued at $307 million.

While Krahn emphasizes the optimism of dairy producers, he is beginning to admit the current climate is making it harder for producers to stay hopeful.

“It’s hard to be optimistic over this length of time,” says Krahn. “I know many people have said, if [Mallorie’s] can’t make it, how can we? It’s causing people to take a second look, if they are going to get through this or not.”

MAX GELBER
 

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