Farmers Urged to Diversify
An outreach center for farmers says they need to focus on diversifying their operations to survive. That message comes as bankruptcy filings continue to mount for farms.
Margaret Krome is with the nonprofit Michael Fields Agricultural Institute says the continued struggle underscores the need for dairy farmers to look for specialty products with a strong market, such as artisanal cheeses.
"The investments that were made a decade and a bit more ago to strengthen our specialty yogurts, our specialty cheeses, those have paid off,” Krome said. “And we ought to be reinvesting in new innovations in dairy."
Dairy farmers in particular have been combating a gradual decline in consumption of traditional products. According to federal data, Americans drank around 17 million gallons of milk in 2018 - compared with 24 million in the mid-1990s. And recently, the nation's largest milk company, Dean Foods, filed for bankruptcy.
As farmers look to adapt to different products, Krome said they should be careful about investing in areas that aren't yet proven. For example, she said hemp is viewed as a silver-bullet crop that will save farmers, but there are still a lot of unknowns.
"This is a crop that has not yet been developed in this state, in this region with the new varietals, and we need to develop the kind of varietals that'll be appropriate in this region,”
Krome said farmers should look to small grain crops, which are making a comeback. She says they're good for soil protection, which can help limit losses during wet growing seasons.