Groups seek to aid organic milk producers

Posted March 13, 2009, at 8:35 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Farm Bureau board of directors on Friday endorsed a joint action with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association to help eight family organic dairy farms in Aroostook and Washington counties find a new market once their existing contracts with H.P. Hood are terminated this summer.

MOFGA and the Farm Bureau Farmland Preservation Committee established a working group two weeks ago to help these member farms. The action Friday brings the full resources of two predominant state agricultural organizations to bear on a project to put Maine-labeled organic milk into the marketplace.

These family farms are located in Mapleton, Woodland, Perham, Smyrna and Hodgdon in Aroostook County and Edmunds, Charlotte and Perry in Washington County.

According to a press release, “These farms are of many different sizes and each has its own story. Some are new first- or second-generation operations, not well-known outside their local communities, and some have long histories in Maine agriculture. But all of them represent the hard work, innovation, commitment to conser-vation, wise use of natural resources, and the family values that make Maine’s agricultural sector a key component of the Maine economy,” said Douglas Blackstone, an Aroostook County potato farmer who serves as president of the Maine Farm Bureau.

Blackstone said that now the milk produced by these eight farms is trucked to an out-of-state processing plant. Some of it then is shipped back into Maine to Maine retailers.

“This system has Maine farms at the mercy of a national milk marketing system that is often not operating in the best interests of the Maine dairy industry,” Blackstone said, adding that H.P. Hood has told the farmers it does not want to continue transporting raw milk from far northern and eastern Maine to its plant in Oneida, N.Y.

The goal of this project is to find a Maine processing facility to bottle the organic milk produced by these eight farms, and to market it in Maine, under a Maine label. That label would either be the label of the Maine dairy that processed the milk, or a new Maine brand, possibly the “Maine Produces” brand about to be introduced by the Maine Farm Bureau on a number of Maine farm products. The milk also would carry the MOFGA label, as well as information identifying the Maine farms where it was produced.

Aside from the eight farms involved, MOFGA and the Maine Farm Bureau are working with Maine-based milk shippers and food distributors, as well as Maine Commissioner of Agriculture Seth Bradstreet III to put together this new market. The two organizations also have put up a joint Web site http://maineorganicmilk.com, where residents and institutional buyers can indicate an interest in buying Maine-labeled organic milk.

For more information contact David Bright at dbright@brightberryfarm.com or call 207-234-4226.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/03/13/news/bangor/groups-seek-to-aid-organic-milk-producers/ printed on September 19, 2014