East Tennessee dairy farms face shut down, contracts to be terminated

David Ball # State

SWEETWATER, Tenn. (WVLT) -- After 100 years of farming in East Tennessee, the Watson Dairy Farm received devastating news from its producer Dean Foods last week.

Josh Watson, owner of Watson Dairy Farm, said his dairy farm is desperately looking for another producer after he received a letter of termination from Dean Foods.

"100 years of dairy and all of a sudden they pull the rug on ya, it's kindly heartbreaking,"
said Watson.

The Watson farm is not alone. The 90 day notice went to 100 farms across the country, nine of which are in Tennessee. Others include farms located in Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Dean Foods said in a statement to Local 8 News Thursday that it regretted the decision and circumstances.

"Unfortunately, Dean Foods has made the difficult decision to end milk procurement contracts with a number of farmers in about 90 days. We regret this decision had to be made."

Dean Foods went on to say that there were many factors in the decision, including a surplus of raw milk when the public is consuming less milk.

Watson said he does not entirely blame Dean Foods, and that he understands the market, but he also fears for other jobs related to the dairy industry.

"There's a lot of jobs you know that revolve around the dairy, the local co-op it will hurt them and the local part stores, there's a lot of jobs in agriculture,"
said Watson.

In the meantime, Watson said he will be forced to sell his cows, but he will continue to search for another producer.

The contracts will end on May 31, 2018. Dean Foods told Local 8 News that they will provide farmers field representatives and additional resources to dairy farms during these challenging times.