Death of East Tenn. dairy farm

Published: May. 31, 2018 at 5:51 PM EDT
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Three months ago Dean Foods gave a notice to dozens of dairy farmers across the country that their contracts would be terminated on May 31st. Now with no one to take over the contract, Watson Dairy Farm shut down Thursday.

"This is the last day for us, we are down to the last day selling our milk somewhere. All possibilities of us getting taken on is over," said Caleb Watson.

Watson and his brother Josh are fourth generation farmers. The brothers have continued a decades long family business and now have been left with no choice but to sell their cattle.

"Congressmen we were calling like crazy, but it didn't happen and we can deal with it, like I said we got Jesus on our side," said Watson.

No other producers would agree to take on the Watson's milk. According to the USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, the market is saturated with too much milk and not enough people buying it.

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.

Watson said the farm has to sell their cows and try to survive another way.

"We are going to do corn and soybeans, probably sell some hay, probably beef cows, it's spread out. We will make a living here; we got Jesus on our side," said Watson.

Dean Foods said back in March that the decision to end contracts was difficult.

"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.

The Watsons said they have begun selling their cattle to other dairy farms that are still in operation, the rest of the herd will be traded for beef cattle.