Dairy Advantage program aims to stabilize N.C. dairy industry
A new strategic plan called Dairy Advantage has been established to help stabilize North Carolina’s deteriorating dairy industry, which has seen the number of farms drop by more than a third in just the last decade. The plan seeks to enhance the value of the dairy industry to the state’s economy, support dairy farm numbers and maintain farmland and open space.
Dairy Advantage will assist farmers who wish to stay in dairy farming to expand in place or relocate within the state. The program also aims to recruit and provide assistance to dairy farmers wishing to come to North Carolina.
“Our dairy farms are an important part of our economy and our agricultural heritage, and also play an important role in continuing a safe and wholesome food supply in our state,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We hope the Dairy Advantage program will help farmers operate more efficiently and effectively to help keep them in business.”
The N.C. dairy industry brings in more than $138 million a year in cash receipts for milk and milk products, and its total economic impact was estimated at $500 million in 2006.
In addition, Dairy Advantage also seeks to reduce the current deficit in milk production and provide consumers with more local milk.
Two pilot programs have been created as part of Dairy Advantage. The first program offers on-farm assessments to give farmers a critical look at a farm’s operations to help determine ways of saving money and increasing profits. The second pilot program will help dairy farmers create a “profit team,” similar to a board of directors, to help resolve any issues the farm faces.
The profit team will act only as a team of advisers, not actually replace the decision-making responsibilities of the farmer.
This program is modeled after a similar project in Pennsylvania that was responsible for increasing profits an average of $250 per cow in one year.
Dairy Advantage is a joint effort between the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, N.C. State University Cooperative Extension, North Carolina Farm Bureau and the N.C. Dairy Producers Association.
The plan was announced at an industry meeting in January, and the roster for the pilot program is full. However, the program will accept more farmers once it is fully operational.