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Business and Economy

Danone is extending its contracts to Maine dairy farms by six months

Raw Milk Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
In this Tuesday, March 31, 2015 photo, dairy cows await milking at the Straw Farm in Newcastle, Maine.

An international food company is extending contracts and offering additional financial support to more than a dozen organic dairy farms in Maine.

Over the summer, Danone North America, which owns the Horizon Organic milk label and other major brands, notified 89 organic dairy farms in New England and other Northeast states that the company would stop buying their milk next August. State and congressional officials responded by pledging to help the 14 affected dairy farms in Maine ahead of the loss of the contracts.

But in a letter this week to Gov. Janet Mills, Danone officials pledged to "ease the impact" on farms by extending those contracts for six additional months, until Feb. 2023. Additionally, the company will provide transition payments to affected farms and free access to financial consultants. Danone also said it will work with the stakeholders to explore “co-investment solutions” to address bigger challenges.

“This support is designed to ease the impact of our transition on the organic dairy community and is motivated by a genuine desire to create a greater window of opportunity for the farms, industry, and governments to address the systemic challenges facing organic dairy in the Northeast,” Chris Adamo, vice president of government relations, policy and partnerships at Danone North America wrote to commissioner Amanda Beals of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. “We will continue to work with state and federal agencies, along with like-minded organizations, to see how some of the systemic challenges that face the region can be improved.”

Mills called the company’s response “a modest but welcome development” for the organic dairy industry in Maine.

“While I appreciate the company’s extended support of our hardworking dairy farmers, I know there are still many challenges ahead as a result of Danone’s decision not to renew its contracts,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with Maine dairy farmers and our other partners to develop long-term solutions to our infrastructure issues that will help us stabilize this industry and secure its future in Maine.”