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Northeast Dairy Co-Op Says Canadian Deal Is Helpful, But Another Is Needed With China

Jersey cows grazing in Shelburne, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen
Jersey cows grazing in Shelburne, Massachusetts.

Under a new trade agreement, U.S. dairy farmers would have greater access to the Canadian market. But a major dairy cooperative says Northeast farmers stand to gain more if a separate trade dispute with China is resolved.

AgriMark economist Bob Wellington said the recent deal will give dairy farmers another market for their milk north of the border, although he's not sure there will be much impact on prices.

"I'm not sure how much opportunity we're going to get," Wellington said. "But any is better than none, and who knows, we may be able to build it into something even greater than we've had in the past. "

Wellington said that about four years ago, Canada "shut off" the market for condensed skim dairy products coming from the U.S.

He said that led some Northeast farmers to dump milk because there was no outlet for it.

"We were just trying to restore what we lost over the last few years," he said. "If we can do that, and then gain something, everybody's better off."

Wellington said resolving the trade situation with China would help farmers out even more.

The co-op sends some 30 million pounds a year of dried whey product there. Wellington said they've been hit hard as a result of the ongoing trade battle.

"It's costing us, gosh, over $100,000 a month in the tariffs, and it could be substantially more after the first of the year, because China's looking at raising the tariffs further," Wellington said.

And higher tariffs could be bad news for already-struggling Northeast dairy farmers, who have been dealing with sagging prices in recent years.

AgriMark is a cooperative of about 1,000 farms across New England and New York.

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Adam is based at New England Public Radio’'s Berkshire County news bureau in Pittsfield, where he has been since August, 2015. He joined NEPR as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.

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