AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Farm Bureau has started fundraising through its nonprofit disaster relief fund to help farmers affected by the closure of MOO Milk, an organic milk processor that announced last week it would cease operations.
Jon Olsen, executive secretary of the bureau, said Wednesday that the Maine Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund has started soliciting donations on behalf of the 12 member farmers who sold their milk through the Falmouth-based Maine’s Own Organic Milk.
The company was established in 2009 to help dairy farmers who had lost contracts to sell organic milk to H.P. Hood.
Olsen said in a phone interview Wednesday that money raised through the disaster relief fund would help the affected farmers find a new buyer for their organic milk. With its closure, MOO Milk secured a deal with Stonyfield’s yogurt-making facility in Londonderry, New Hampshire, to buy all of the milk from its 12 member farms for the next 90 days.
Rommy Haines, a past director of the Maine Farm Bureau and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association member who helped MOO Milk get started, said in a phone interview that the farmers hope to find a deal most similar to what they had with MOO Milk.
“They’ve got several options they’re pursuing but aren’t sure what the outcome will be,” Haines said, noting that dairy farmers are now in a different position than those who formed MOO Milk because other processors are seriously considering longer-term deals.
He said the farmers are in discussions with Oakhurst Dairy, Organic Valley and Stonyfield about longer-term contracts and the funds from the emergency relief fund could help with that effort.
For now, he said the farmers are committed to sticking together, but it’s possible the 12-member group could go in different directions if a deal with a new processor doesn’t appeal to everyone.
“They had a meeting Sunday and they’re all unified right now to find a solution that looks most like what they were doing, but you don’t always find a perfect match,” Haines said.
Olsen said the amount available to the farmers will depend on fundraising efforts, and a committee will be formed to determine how the funds should be distributed. Olsen said the bureau has already received calls from people who want to donate to the fund.
The Maine Farm Bureau invites people interested in donating to the fund to call 1-800-639-2126.