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March 9, 2006

Allied And Agri-Mark Farmers Vote To Come Together

Methuen, Mass. -- The farmers of both the Allied Federated Cooperatives and Agri-Mark have voted to come together to protect the region's dairy industry and work for higher farm milk prices. To accomplish this goal, the Allied Federation of Cooperatives, based in Canton, N.Y., voted on March 1 to dissolve their umbrella organization and to allow its members to become direct members of Allied/Agri-Mark. Two days later, more than 125 dairy farmer officials of Agri-Mark met in New Hampshire to give their Board of Directors and management unanimous approval to expand and bring as many of the former Allied farmers into the Allied/Agri-Mark fold. "Our farmers are excited about being part of a larger, farmer-owned business that will represent Northeast farm families in the marketplace with two strong brands. And, as dairy farmers we need to work together to preserve what we have left of our regional industry," says Mike Barnes, a dairy farmer from Mount Upton, N.Y., who serves as Allied's Chairman of the Board. Though the Allied Federated Cooperatives will cease to exist, Barnes will continue to serve as Chairman until the transition is completed over the next several months. Before the joining of the two dairy farmer groups, Allied was a federation of 26 cooperatives and more than 800 farmers. Agri-Mark had roughly 1,300 farmer-members throughout New England and New York, with more than 500 of its farmers in the Empire State. During the next several months many of the former Allied farmers will join the new Allied/Agri-Mark as contracts with their former cooperative end. More than 225 former Allied farmers have joined Allied/Agri-Mark in the past 10 days. "We really look forward to working with even more farm families in the months and years ahead," says Carl Peterson, a Delanson, N.Y., dairy farmer who serves as Agri-Mark's Chairman. "This joining of our organizations makes us a stronger cooperative than ever before. From northern Maine to Vermont to Southern Connecticut to Western New York, we are going to continue to be the voice of the Northeast dairy farmers and represent them in the marketplace as well as in state legislatures and Washington, D.C." Peterson says Allied/Agri-Mark farmers are committed to the Northeast. While other companies are closing dairy plants in the region and investing in mega-plants in California and New Mexico, Allied/Agri-Mark has more than $75 million invested in four dairy processing plants in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts to provide a milk market, maintain stable prices, and generate value-added products under the award-winning Cabot and McCadam brands of cheddar cheese, butter and other dairy products. "We"re making a real financial commitment to the Northeast," says Peterson. "We hope more farmers will join with us in the months ahead to help further build a farmer owned, value-added marketing system. Our goal is better dairy markets and better long-term farm milk prices. Farm prices have been up and down the past several years and when you couple that with plants closing, you can see why farmers have to work together like never before." Agri-Mark bought the McCadam Cheese processing plant in Chateaugay, N.Y., in 2003 when its foreign owner announced plans to close the facility. Agri-Mark has since been marketing additional New York milk and investing in the McCadam brand on behalf of its dairy farmer-owners. Allied and Agri-Mark have been working together during the past year to combine milk hauling routes, supply customers and identify other ways to operate more efficiently. As more farmers become members of Allied/Agri-Mark, efficiencies should increase in many areas.

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