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The State of Dairy 2021: Postcard from North Carolina: Moving toward innovation

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 12 March 2021

Even though it ranks just outside the list of “major” dairy states, North Carolina’s dairy producers and industry aren’t immune to the same forces affecting other states, noted Brittany Whitmire, North Carolina State University dairy extension associate.

Last year’s incomes were buffeted by federal and state COVID-19 stimulus funds. At the same time, price volatility and disorderly marketing confounded producers with even the most disciplined risk management strategies. Higher feed costs are likely to create cash flow challenges in 2021.

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With general conditions currently favorable, there’s a familiar pattern of expansion in the wind. Given the increase in production, combined with continued uncertainty in demand, including shifting consumer patterns and residual COVID-19 impacts on the traditional marketplace, dairy advisers like Whitmire hope that farmers banked some of their 2020 cash to ensure navigating through the ride that 2021 may turn out to be.

“Market uncertainty and continued, significant volatility in milk prices set us up for a year of tightening,” Whitmire said. “That goal of having an emergency fund that could carry a farm business through six to eight months is critical for those times, which we may likely see in 2021.”

Not all the expansion is about getting bigger, but rather about getting better, Whitmire said. “Through careful analysis and honest reflection, several farms have identified ways to increase herd performance, reduce waste created from imbalances in human and physical resources and adopt technology that makes sense for them,” she explained.

North Carolina is tapping into resources to innovate, Whitmire said. Beginning in 2021, North Carolina State University and the Kentucky Dairy Development Council are partnering with the University of Tennessee to increase the regional impact of the Tennessee Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives program, funded through the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. The program aims to assist dairy farmers in the region to diversify dairy product markets, reduce risks and develop higher-value uses for dairy products, in addition to new educational programming offers. North Carolina and Kentucky dairy farmers will be eligible to apply for grants in the second phase of the program, anticipated in late 2021 or 2022. end mark

Also read: 

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Northeast: Proceeding with caution

Southeast: More than a fluid situation

I-29 Dairy Corridor: Connectivity and caution

Postcard from Kansas: Optimism is more difficult

Postcard from Ohio: Plenty of uncertainty

Indiana: Updated strategy, leadership

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The state of risk management: 2021 DMC enrollment jumps

Midwest: Pillars withstand quake of coronavirus

Southwest: Placing a tier on growth?

California: A family struggle

Idaho: An apprehensive start to 2021

The state of food service: A tough climb ahead

The state of the dairy herd: More cows, fewer heifers

The state of exports: Record volumes

The state of retail sales: Maintaining strength

Dave Natzke
  • Dave Natzke

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  • Progressive Dairy
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