Organic Valley is making efforts to make organic milk more affordable for consumers, co-op mission director Theresa Marquez announced at Organic Valley’s annual meeting Friday.
Organic milk costs $6.49 on average, as compared to $3.30 per gallon of conventional milk, according to Time.
This announcement was made after Organic Valley’s second record-setting year, with sales over $1.1 billion and a profit of $6.3 million. The cooperative also announced a new 50-50 partnership with Dean Foods in December, which is expected to increase Organic Valley’s scope, adding its products to more than 140,000 stores nationwide.
Despite this announcement, Organic Valley will not be reducing the amount that it pays its members: an average of $35.67 a hundredweight for milk, as compared to the national conventional average of $16.35.
“We want to support our farmers with higher prices,” Marquez told the La Crosse Tribune.
This announcement was made as milk sales continue to fall nationwide. According to the USDA, the average American drinks 18 gallons of milk a year, as compared to 30 gallons a year in the 1970s.
Simultaneously, the plant-based milk sector has been seeing increased popularity. According to Neilsen, almond milk sales grew 250 percent between 2011 and 2016. During the same period, the dairy milk market shrunk by $1 billion.
Dairy milk’s declining popularity has even led Big Dairy to attempt to forbid the growing plant-based milk sector, which is expected to reach $10.9 billion by 2019, from using words like milk, yogurt, and cheese on its products, through legislation known as the Dairy Pride act.
The dairy industry, be it organic or conventional, is also over-producing milk.
“Two years ago, we were short on milk, and today, we’re long on milk — and eggs, too,” Organic Valley CEO George Siemon says. “But the organic market is strong.”
Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, Organic Valley’s parent company, accounts for 15.6 percent of all certified organic dairy farmers in the country. About 10 percent of CROPP members run grass-fed milk operations.