Members of St. Albans Cooperative Creamery are officially members of Dairy Farmers of America after members voted to approve a merger with the nation’s largest dairy farmer cooperative.
Harold Howrigan Jr., chairman of the St. Albans board of directors and a sixth-generation dairy farmer, says the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of merging with DFA. The vote was held late last month after a series of meetings where members debated the proposal.
“We’ve been a member co-op of DFA for 16 years. We’re building on that relationship,” Howrigan says. “Our goal all along is to protect our members’ equity and investments they’ve made, and to secure our milk market long term and stabilize it some.”
He says the co-op board has been considering merging with DFA for nearly two years.
He says the co-op’s infrastructure needs investments and that DFA has pledged to invest between $25 and $30 million over the next few years to upgrade the St. Albans balancing plant and trucking business.
“We’re very fortunate to be merging with a larger co-op. From a logistical standpoint, change will be minimal from the offset,” he says. “I just feel it’s a great opportunity for us going forward. I’m excited about it.
“Our model of the cooperative wasn’t working, so this is a very net positive.”
Kiersten Bourgeois, business development and communications manager for St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, says the cooperative has just over 300 members that altogether produce 1.2 billion pounds of milk. Half of that milk goes to Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont-based ice cream maker. Other end customers include Vermont Creamery, Kate’s Homemade Butter, Stonyfield and more.
Bourgeois says the plant has sections over 75 years old.
“The plant is being evaluated but improvements will include improving the building infrastructure as a means to increase the efficiency of operations, added product storage and improvements with our milk receiving,” she says.
The merger officially closed on Aug. 1.
St. Albans has been an integral part of the state’s dairy community for the past century and has been a member cooperative of DFA since 2003.
“During our 16-year partnership we have developed a strong, collaborative working partnership with DFA,” says Leon Berthiaume, CEO of St. Albans Cooperative Creamery. “In many ways, this merger is a continuation of the strategic goals, values and mission of St. Alban’s Cooperative Creamery.”
“We are excited to welcome the hardworking members and employees of St. Albans to the DFA family,” says Brad Keating, senior vice president and COO of DFA’s Northeast Area. “Together, we are committed to investing in continuing the strong tradition of dairy farming in the Northeast.”
As part of the merger, McDermotts, a hauling company owned by St. Albans, the St. Albans Cooperative Store and St. Albans Cooperative Creamery Plant, will become wholly owned subsidiaries of DFA. In addition, the board of directors of St. Albans Cooperative will continue to represent dairy farmers’ interests as part of DFA’s Northeast Area Council.