How Bel Brands USA is Helping the Next Generation of Dairy Farmers
The U.S. has lost nearly 20,000 licensed dairy farms, approximately 30%, over the past decade. COVID-19 accelerated the decline by increasing milk price volatility and financial stress, forcing many to leave the industry; as a result, there were 2,550 fewer licensed dairy operations in 2020 than in 2019. Reversing this trend of rural economic degeneration requires investment in the next generation of dairy farmers, who are vital for the future of U.S. dairy.
To help support the next generation of U.S. dairy farmers, Bel Brands USA is partnering with one of its cooperative suppliers to test an innovative model providing dairy cows from a nearby donor to a young dairy farmer who supplies milk to Bel’s Leitchfield, Kentucky plant.
To ensure the young farmer, who began his operation just three years ago, is set up for success, Bel recruited a reputable Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to select optimal dairy cows for the program and to certify their health; with Bel financing the donation, health certification and transportation of the cows.
“We are committed to help address the generational transition of our supplier farmers by sustaining young new dairy farmers,” stated Brian Zook, Director of Milk Sourcing and Dairy Sustainability, Bel Brands USA. “This new partnership allows us to test a new model and to potentially help more dairy farmers in the future.”
Beyond the one-year pilot, Bel plans to expand the program across the supplier cooperative level, with the longer-term vision being to expand it to all supplier cooperatives that ship milk to Bel in the U.S.
“Sustaining dairy production is key to a farm’s survival and it all comes down to the size of your herd,” said the young dairy farmer. “Because of Bel, the future of my farm, my family, and my community is now much brighter.”