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July 27, 2009   Email to Friend 

OYFF: Brown Sees Dairy Future In Decline
Darryal Ray

Benjamin Brown says his grandfather has been in dairy business for 54 years.
Sponsored each year by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Outstanding Young Farm Family Awards Program recognizes young farmers between the ages of 17 and 35 who do an outstanding job in farm, home and community activities. Division winners representing 11 commodities were selected in February. Of those, six finalists will compete for the title of overall Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2009. The winner, who will be named at the Federation's 88th Annual Meeting in December, will receive a John Deere Gator, courtesy of the Federal Land Bank of Alabama, $500 cash from Dodge, the use of a new vehicle and other prizes and will go on to compete at the national level for a new Dodge Ram 3500. This month, Neighbors profiles seven commodity division winners. Look for features on the six finalists in the coming months.

Benjamin Brown has seen the future of dairy farming in Alabama, and it doesn't look good.

In 1987, the state had 330 dairies. By 2006, there were 75 dairies. By 2008, the number was down to 67.

"It's all been going downhill," says Brown. "In the dairy business, you don't make a bunch of money ... the price dropped from $18 to $10 per hundredweight in January, and hasn't come back up yet."

Even his own milking herd has shrunk, down from 100 cows to 60. "That's how we get by right now," says Brown, who farms along with his 76-year-old grandfather, Joe Brown, and uncle, Joel Brown. "That's how we're holding on. They aren't bringing in what we're having to put into them."

It's an uphill battle, but the 23-year-old Southside farmer can't imagine doing anything else. "Paw Paw has had the dairy here for 54 years," he says. "I picked it up from him, and I've been by his side since I was 3. I've been helping him ever since I could walk. I am going to stay here as long as I can."

Should he ever decide to call it quits, Brown could go fishing for another career -- he holds an associate's degree in aquaculture from Gadsden State Community College.



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