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Holstein cows stick their heads through a stall at a farm in Mannsville last year. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — A Jefferson County dairy cooperative is set to approve a contract to sell its milk through the end of the year, underscoring a long-awaited break from instability and the end of an unpredictable market, at least for now.

The Jefferson County Bulk Milk Cooperative Inc. has its first stable contract since losing its deal with Kraft Heinz at the end of last year.

Kraft told the Jefferson County co-op, which negotiates deals to sell its member farmers’ milk to processors, on Dec. 2, 2019, that it rejected a deal to purchase the group’s milk for its Lowville plant for another year and decided to “use other options,” said member farmer Lynn A. Murray, co-owner of Murcrest Farm, Copenhagen.

John Peck, a dairy farmer who’s on the cooperative’s Board of Directors, said a meeting Wednesday evening is set to approve a contract with Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Buffalo, to last through the year. The bulk cooperative already had a smaller contract with Upstate Niagara, but this is enhanced and puts an end to farmers selling volatile and unpredictable spot milk every week.

“This is very much a godsend to be able to have something more concrete,” Mr. Peck said. “The risk of dumping will be eliminated through the end of the year. There’s peace of mind.”

As part of the contract, Niagara will be purchasing milk from bulk co-op members, then the bulk farmers will be responsible for shipping it to processing plants in St. Lawrence County and Syracuse in Onondaga County, depending on what Upstate Niagara decides.

“Now we just need something more concrete for next year,” he said. “We want to avoid selling spot milk at all costs because that has caused a lot of financial pain.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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