Milk prices going up in Pa.

October 22, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania consumers can expect to pay more for milk, following a unanimous decision Tuesday by the Milk Marketing Board to help dairy farmers who have been hurt by this year's drought.

The price of a gallon of milk bought at the grocery store will go up by 3.5 cents, said Tracey Jackson, the board's director of consumer affairs.

"We're still lower than all the other states," she said.

The average price of a gallon of milk sold in Pennsylvania is $2.44, she said.

The increase shouldn't affect prices on ice cream, cheese and other dairy products, Jackson said.

The board's vote, endorsed by Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Sam Hayes, increases the bulk price paid to dairy farmers by raising the price on 100 pounds of milk by 40 cents - from 80 cents to $1.20, she said.


The increase takes effect Nov. 1 and will remain in place until April 30, 1998. The price will fall to 50 cents per 100 pounds of milk on May 1, she said.

"It should make the dairy farmers happy for a little while," said Raymond Hawbaker, president of the Franklin County Farm Bureau and a retired Lemasters, Pa., dairy farmer.

An average-sized dairy farm with 60 cows could make about $300 extra a month with the increase, said Joel Rotz, dairy specialist with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

"We realize it's not the salvation of the dairy industry ... It's getting what we can out of the current market," he said.

For Franklin County farmers, the increase isn't expected to go too far since the area was hit this year with a "double whammy" of low milk prices and the drought, Hawbaker said.

Dairy prices have been low for a long time, so any news of a price increase is welcome, said Chambersburg dairy farmer Bob Martin, who milks 550 Holsteins that produce about 31,000 pounds - or 3,604 gallons - of milk per day.

The price increase will be helpful, especially since crops suffered in the drought this year, he said.

"We only had a little over half the crop of usual years," Martin said.

Many Franklin County farmers are feeling the pinch this year since they have to buy forage to supplement their below-average corn and hay harvests.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Franklin County, along with 46 other counties in Pennsylvania, a natural disaster area following this year's drought, which cut the harvest in half.

The declaration makes farmers eligible for emergency low-interest loans through their local farm service agencies, said Sally Bair, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

But for some, applying for another loan does more harm than good.

"Farmers aren't looking for that type of thing. A lot of them have all the loans they can handle now," Hawbaker said.

In the long run, higher milk prices will help dairy farmers more than low-interest loans, Martin said.

St. Thomas, Pa., dairy farmer Steve Fisher, who farms with his father and three brothers, said that even with the increase, milk prices are too low to keep up with feed and machinery prices.

"General expenses go up every year," while the milk price gets cut, he said.

Information on applying for government loans can be obtained by calling the Franklin County Agriculture Service Center in Chambersburg at 1-717-263-8451.

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