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New milk plant in Michigan good news for Wisconsin farmers

Lenorlux/iStock/Thinkstock tanks in dairy processing plant
LARGE PLANT: A new Foremost Farms plant in Greenville, Mich., will be able to process 6 million pounds of raw milk per day.
The Foremost Farms plant will be completed in about one year.

Why should Wisconsin farmers be cheering the news that Foremost Farms USA, headquartered in Baraboo, Wis., purchased 96 acres in Greenville, Mich., on Nov. 9 and announced plans to build a new milk plant there?

Because it means as soon as the Michigan plant is up and running — sometime between November 2018 and January 2019 — it’s likely far fewer semiloads of milk from Michigan will be pouring into Wisconsin, flooding milk plants here with surplus milk that processors can buy for up to $5 per cwt less than what they are paying their own farmers for milk.

Plant capacity
The new plant will be able to process 6 million pounds of raw milk per day, which means Wisconsin milk plants likely will once again have enough processing plant capacity to handle the milk produced in the Dairy State.

It also means Wisconsin dairy farmers are less likely to be scrambling to find new processors to take their milk, like 70 producers from southern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota had to do last April. Grassland Dairy in Greenwood, Wis., told the farmers they had less than one month to find a new processor to buy their milk. Grassland had been selling 1 million pounds of ultrafiltered milk daily to a cheese processor in Canada. But Grassland was informed at the end of March that the Canadian cheese plant was immediately discontinuing that milk purchase.

To add insult to injury, the Grassland farmers were forced to look for new milk processors during the spring flush, when cows typically are producing the most milk of the year. Fortunately, all but two producers were able to find new homes for their milk, most just days before the May 1 deadline.

Foremost Farms is working closely with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and other state and local entities to ensure a successful project. The project is contingent upon receiving approvals of necessary local and state incentives and support, including a long-term wastewater treatment solution.

According to Foremost Farms President and CEO Michael Doyle, “Foremost Farms’ executive management and board of directors plan to strategically build this facility in Greenville in order to control our own destiny in Michigan and unify our seven-state membership.”

Those seven states include Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio.

“It is our goal to continue to work with our strategic partners and alliances like we have established in the region with Michigan Milk Producers Association at Constantine, Mich., to maximize dairy farmer investments, stabilize the regional milk market and add value for all producers in this market,” Doyle adds.

Foremost Farms will initially process milk solids for internal use in farmer-owned production facilities in the Upper Midwest, and for sales to customers and strategic alliance partners. Phase one of this project will provide the base to start a dairy processing “campus” at that site. The property purchase is the first step in Foremost Farms’ long-term strategy of managing milk solids across the cooperative’s seven-state membership.

While it is good news that Foremost Farms is stepping up and building a new milk plant in Michigan, Wisconsin dairy farmers do have one more spring to get through before that plant is completed. In the meantime, it would be wise for dairy farm expansion plans to be put on hold to prevent another crisis like Wisconsin dairy farmers experienced last spring.

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