Organic Valley, which George Siemon and a handful of other farmers founded in 1988 and now is the largest cooperative of organic farmers in the country, also hired 110 new employees last year. That jump increased its payroll to 903 and maintained its status as the largest employer in Vernon County, with a substantial part of its operations based in Cashton in addition to its La Farge headquarters.
A new joint venture, a 50-50 pact with Dallas-based Dean Foods with the internal title of Organic Vally Fresh, will roll out this year under the Organic Valley brand label, with former Dean vice president Greg Schwarz coming aboard as general manager.
“It brings together the power of Organic Valley’s family farms with the distribution of Dean Foods,” Schwarz said in a phone interview.
“It’s pretty exciting, because it is a neat way of bringing Organic Valley into stores,” he said.
In the five months to November 2016, UK average farmgate prices rose by 28.42% to 25.62p/litre, 5.9% (1.43p/litre) up on the same month a year ago.
A milk price of 25p/litre is generally regarded as the lower end of the average national cost-of-production figure, providing a further positive indicator of the state of UK dairy.
“These latest Defra figures allow producers to be a little more comfortable in 2017,” said Luke Crossman, senior analyst at AHDB dairy.
“There’s been a slight drop in recent wholesale prices, but it’s being viewed as more of a correction than a fall.
“I don’t see any incentive for farmgate prices to drop before the spring flush and with some processors already offering 30p/litre plus, there’s no reason the farmgate average can’t hit 27-28p/litre come January.”
Mr Crossman added, “Production will be the crucial factor in determining future price rises.
“Although it is rising at the moment, UK production is still 6% lower than this time last year, so as long as EU production doesn’t boom during the flush, it should be a good year for dairy farmers.”