February 22, 2002
N.Y. dairy farmer optimistic about the future of his cooperativeMethuen, Mass. -- New York dairy farmer Carl Peterson of Delanson was recently elected to his 11th term as Chairman of the Board of Agri-Mark, the largest dairy cooperative serving the New England Market with more than 1,400 farmer-members. Peterson has served as Chairman of the dairy organization since 1992. Roughly 400 of Agri-Mark's dairy farmers operate family farms in New York State, one of the expanding markets for their cooperative's Cabot brand of Vermont cheddar cheese and other dairy products. "Agri-Mark just ended the last year with a $5.7 million profit," says Peterson, "despite the negative impact the terrorist attacks had on our industry. Sales of our Cabot brand of dairy products continue to increase every year, and our new whey protein operations were also very profitable." Agri-Mark's year-end profits will mean an additional $.25 per hundredweight on a year's production to each of its farmer-members. Peterson says Agri-Mark farmers also received another $5.7 million in monthly premiums in addition to the past year's profits. He notes the co-op is now working to increase farm milk prices in the national Farm Bill now being debated in Washington. During the elections of officers at a recent Agri-Mark meeting, dairy farmer Stuart Gadbois of Salem, Conn., was reelected to the position of Agri-Mark Vice Chairman, while Neal Rea of Cambridge, N.Y. was reelected Secretary. Paul Percy of Stowe, Vt., was reelected Treasurer, and dairy farmer John Malcolm of Pawlet, Vt., will join these officers as the other member of the co-op's Executive Committee. Peterson says that there are a lot of challenges ahead for Agri-Mark and he is glad to have the opportunity to continue to work with the Board of Directors, members and management staff to further develop Agri-Mark's business. "I am grateful for the chance to chart the future direction of Agri-Mark as it relates to the Northeast dairy industry," he says. "That is both a tremendous challenge and opportunity, one that I am looking forward to." The co-op Chairman is among the 15 dairy farmers elected by local members to serve on the Agri-Mark Board of Directors. The co-op had sales of $570 million in fiscal 2001 and markets 40% of the milk in the New England Market for its farmer-owners. "Co-ops like Agri-Mark are formed by farmers to work together in the marketplace," says Peterson. "As Northeast dairy farmers we continue to face the threat of lower milk prices and increased competition from other regions of the country for our markets. The investments we have made in our modern manufacturing plants and our Cabot brand will continue to generate farm dollars and protect our farmers from roller-coaster price fluctuations." "We're focused on adding value to our farmer's milk, whether it be on the wholesale or retail end of the business," says Peterson. "If farmers want long-term profitability, co-op's like Agri-Mark have to capture more of the consumer's dollar in the marketplace for their farmer-owners. That's the best chance for survival in this business that I see." Based in Methuen, Mass., Agri-Mark is the leading dairy farmer owned cooperative in the New England market with 1,400 farmer members from New England and New York State. The cooperative markets about 40% of the farm milk in New England and is active on regulatory and legislative issues for its members. Agri-Mark farmers own and market much of their milk under their award-winning Cabot brand of Vermont cheddar cheese and other fine dairy products.