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Photo: Julie Grant
Photo: Julie Grant

Farm Bill helps dairy farmers go organic

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Going organic offers a higher milk price for dairy farmers. But it's expensive to earn organic certification and learn a whole new mind set for producing milk without chemicals or antibiotics. The new Farm Bill increases funding to help conventional farmers make the transition.

Ellen Abbott reports on one central New York farmer who's happy he made made the switch.

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Reported by

Ellen Abbott
Reporter, WRVO

Ben Simons, a dairy farmer for 20 years in Remsen, two years ago decided to convert his operation over to an organic dairy.

"I did not want expand my dairy anymore," he said. "It was very difficult to stay a small family farm and compete with conventional milk.”

It’s been a learning experience. Simons says the whole management of a diary herd is different. For example when a cow gets sick, he used to get a prescription for antibiotics, but that’s not allowed in an organic dairy.

“It’s a different mindset," says Simons. "You just don’t reach for a bottle of penicillin anymore. You have to go and find out what works homeopathically for whatever the ailment is for that animal.”

He is also managing crops in different ways, and the whole proposition is more expensive than a transitional farm. He’s happy that the new Farm Bill includes help for farmers who want to make the switch, because, he said, "There are many young farmers out there, who have smaller farms, who want to go organic, but it has been very expensive, and overburdensom on rules and regulations. So with the Farm Bill, there’s a bridge there."

So for Simons, even though he missed out on the Farm Bill perks, was it worth it?

"There are times I wonder if it was worth it, but at the end of the day, it seems we’re producing a product that people want," he maintains.

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