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LAND AFFAIRS


GOT MILK? L


Northern PA Does.


BY JOHN FREY Executive Director, Center for Dairy Excellence


ong before the gas industry came to the region, there was another


treasure hidden in the hills


and valleys of northern Pennsylvania. It was the dairy industry, with more than 7,200 dairy farms scattered across Pennsylvania’s coun- tryside, providing a local sup- ply of fresh, wholesome milk, wide open spaces for the environment, and valu- able economic revenue for the Commonwealth’s rural communities.


In 2013, Pennsylvania’s dairy industry produced more than 10.6 billion pounds—or 1.23 billion gallons—of milk and generated more than $6 billion in economic revenue for the Commonwealth. Just like the gas industry, the dairy industry brings revenue back into local communities, with much of the milk exported to regions with higher population, such as New York and the Mid-Atlantic region. Dairy farm families in the northwest and northeast regions of Pennsylvania export much of their milk but spend 85 percent of their income locally.


Pennsylvania long has been a national leader in dairy, ranking fifth in terms of total milk production. Pennsylvania is home to more dairy farms than any other state except Wisconsin. How- ever, dairy farming is a capital-intensive business. Maintaining a profit margin within a volatile marketplace has become more challenging in recent years. Price swings—on both the income and expense side—of 50 percent or more within a 12-month period are not unusual for the industry.


In 2004, the Center for Dairy Excellence was created to bring much needed support to Pennsylvania’s dairy industry and its


14 Marcellus Quarterly 2014 The Coolidge family


individual farms. Managing a dairy farm in today’s business environment requires a close eye on the finances and tremen- dous attention to the details. The Center for Dairy Excellence acts as a small business development center to offer resources and support to help dairy farm families develop best manage- ment practices that can lead to improved decision making, a better business model and, ultimately, greater profitability.


NEW OPPORTUNITIES


The center works as a catalyst within the industry to encour- age partnerships, collaboration and support for growing and strengthening dairy farm businesses across Pennsylvania. In the past few years, the infusion of Marcellus Shale income has helped to spur some of this growth in the northeast and west- ern region of the state.


“Marcellus Shale gave farms choices that they didn’t have be- fore,” says Erick J. Coolidge, Center for Dairy Excellence board chairperson, who serves as a Tioga County commissioner and, with wife Dixie and son Derick, farms 700 Wellsboro acres and


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