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Maine Farmers Looking for Contract

November 12, 2002

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WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) _ A Maine dairyman who helped to organize a weekend milk-dumping protest said farmers in the Northeast need a contract for higher milk prices.

Konrad Bailey was a leader of a demonstration in Fairfield in which 10,000 gallons on milk were dumped from a truck into a manure pit to draw attention to plummeting milk prices.

He said the contract, which seeks to raise the minimum payment to farmers for their milk, could be successful if at least 30 percent of the dairy farmers in the Northeast sign it.

``I think 30 percent will do it to start,″ said Bailey, of Farmington. ``We need to challenge people.″

Bailey is working with the National Farmers Organization, which is circulating a contract proposal to farmers in New York and New England.

The contract seeks a minimum price of $15 per hundredweight, but Bailey said it actually would fetch farmers closer to $17 per hundredweight because they would get extra money for byproducts such as butterfat and protein.

Farmers say they now are losing money on the $12 per hundredweight they are getting.

Farmers said they are feeling the effects of falling prices resulting from last year’s expiration of the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact.

Most owners of larger dairy farms stayed away from Saturday’s milk dump. Galen Larrabee, who milks 350 cows in Knox, said a milk dump is not the way to make changes.

``Get to Augusta or get to Washington and spin your wheels there,″ Larrabee said. ``I just don’t feel I can afford to dump milk to make a point. And it’s not the right thing to do, for another thing. There are people starving.″

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SEBEWAING, Mich. (AP) _ Sugar beet growers and members of this tight-knit community are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Michigan Sugar Co. plant.

The event held last week was especially sweet because a little more than two years ago, the company was on the brink of shutting down.

``Words can’t describe how it feels to be here today,″ said Tom Zimmer, chairman of the growers’ cooperative that purchased Michigan Sugar from Imperial Sugar Co. in February for $63.5 million.

More than 1,000 growers banded together to buy the four Michigan Sugar processing facilities in four cities from Imperial, which had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2001.

The 100th anniversary celebration came just one day after the plant accepted the season’s last shipment of sugar beets. Overall, Michigan Sugar took in 2.35 million tons of beets this year.

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