Farm Progress

Check out these 10 ideas and sources for help in weathering tough dairy times.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

April 5, 2018

2 Min Read
MORE GREEN PLEASE: Dairy farms seek new ways to add “green” to farm cash flows.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding is right: Dairy’s future requires new ways of thinking. Actually, it mandates it, because change isn’t just an option — it happens. Here are a few ideas to think on from Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence and Cornell University’s ProDairy program:

• Transitioning to organic might be a possibility. Several larger retail grocery chains operating in Pennsylvania are bringing in their private label organic milk from other states because not enough is produced in Pennsylvania, according the Center for Dairy Excellence.

But carefully study the market trends and seek expert analytical advice before pursuing. Be sure to read American Agriculturist’s 2016 article "Trouble ahead for Northeast organic milk shift."

• Research affordable financing options if considering a major production change, such as cheese-making, ice cream or yogurt. Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development has financing programs for small businesses available through your county’s certified Economic Development Organization. USDA Rural Development also offers Value-Added Producer Grants to help one or a group of farmers finance a feasibility study, a business plan or some much-needed equipment.

• Diversify income sources. Consider transitioning some acreage to organic corn or soybean production. Demand for Pennsylvania-grown organic feed grains, particularly soybeans, for the booming organic poultry industry is large and expanding.

• Gain market leverage by forming a cooperative with other farmers or joining an existing one. PDA works with the Keystone Development Center, which helps new and emerging cooperatives.

• Take another look at the Margin Protection Program. Congress recently made MPP changes to improve its effectiveness in states like Pennsylvania. Contact your Farm Service Agency office for details.

Other suggestions and tools can be found at

ProDairy resources
Here are two Cornell website links with a variety of personal and business management tips:

1. New York Farm Net has a Stress on Farm Families fact sheet.

2. Cornell Pro-Dairy’s March e-Alert Managing in Challenging Times covers the following topics: 

• 10 key herd management opportunities on dairy farms during low-margin times

• Feeding strategies during challenging times

• Key opportunities to optimize 2018 crop production efficiency

• Do’s and don’ts for dairy farmers facing financial difficulty

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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