Local Dairy Farmers Concerned About Dean Bankruptcy

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MANDAN — America’s largest producer of milk recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month.

They say milk does a body good, and for decades we’ve been touting the benefits of milk.

But in 2019, the milk industry is facing tough times as Dean Foods, one of the giants in milk production has filed for Bankruptcy.

And that’s important because Dean’s licences Land O’Lakes, and you don’t have to go far in North Dakota to find those products on the shelf.

Kenton Holle is one of those Mandan Dairy Farmers. He’s got over 700 cows producing milk for Land O’Lakes.

“The last four years have been pretty tight margins for the dairy industry and it’s just another stretch on our resilience in able to handle circumstances not in our control,” said Holle.

The first sign of trouble for Dean hit two years ago when they lost a massive contract with Wal-Mart — who began processing their own milk. Now their products take up most of the shelf space, leaving only a fraction for Land O’Lakes Milk.

The news comes at a time when traditional milk sales are lagging behind alternative dairy options such as almond and soy milk.

“Dean Foods wants to say that it’s because of all the alternative beverages, you know, flavored waters and stuff like that. Well, that’s bunk. Dean Foods dropped the ball in being able to make sure that they were taking care of the market that they had. They weren’t doing anything to create new products to keep up with the consumer demand,” said Holle.

On their website, Dean stated they will operate under business as usual conditions and consumers and producers should not be affected. We spoke with Harvey Hoff of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition who milks 100 cows in Richardton and told us if the courts decide to close the Bismarck plant, the impact would be catastrophic.

“If it closes down, it’s kind of the last blow for our industry I feel. There’s only one other plant in the state and that’s Kemp’s in Fargo — that’s it — I mean how much more can we take?” said Hoff.

We reached out to Dean’s for comment on this story and they told KX News,

Any future decisions regarding our plants will be based, as always, on market conditions and the needs of the business.”

According to their website, Dean said they are in talks to potentially sell the company to Dairy Farmers of America Incorporated, a CO-OP owned by thousands of dairy farmers across the country.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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