Milk prices paid to Carroll dairy farmers began to rise in late spring and should continue to climb this summer and remain strong in the fall, one economist said.
Prices per 100 pounds are $1 to $1.50 higher this year than last year, said John W. Wysong, an economist with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service in College Park.
Milk is measured in 100-pound units, equaling 11.6 gallons.
New Windsor dairy farmer Jason Myers said the price his cooperative paid him for milk produced this month was 40 cents higher per hundred pounds than for milk produced in May.
He predicted the price will continue to increase until August, when he hopes it will reach $13.90 per hundred pounds, or $1 more than May's price.
Myers said May and June prices are about $1.40 higher than last year's. He's happy about that, but he said prices are not at 1990 levels.
"Last year was the poorest year we've had in 12 years," said Myers, who farms with his wife, Donna. They milk 55 cows.
This year's prices are shaping up to be somewhere between 1990 and 1991 prices, he said. In 1990, the average price for milk was $14.76 per hundred pounds. Last year, it was about $12.91.
Prices began going up this year when milk supplies in the Midwest fell, Myers said.
The price farmers in Carroll and throughout the mid-Atlantic region receive for their milk is based on a price set in Minnesota and Wisconsin, one of the country's largest dairy regions.
Prices are up in part because of a boost from the federal government, which released money from a withholding program earlier than usual this year "because a lot of people are having a tough time financially," Wysong said.
Cooperatives usually hold the money until fall and distribute it as premiums to encourage production while demand is up, he said.
Premiums paid by the Atlantic Dairy Cooperative in Southampton, Pa., were down 8 cents in May as compared with the same month last year, Assistant General Manager Bob Dever said.
Premiums are down because supply is up, he said. The cooperative paid 50 cents per hundred pounds in May 1991 and 42 cents this May, he said.
Production in Maryland is up slightly this year because many farmers had good weather last year and were able to store feed supplies, Wysong said.
Production across the country is about even with 1991 levels, he said. Production was 13 billion pounds in April of this year and last, he said.
Westminster dairy farmer Gary Dell said production at his farm is down somewhat because he has fewer cows this year. He and his father, Greg, now milk 110 cows; they had milked as many as 150 cows in past years.
They sold some cows because milk prices were down last year and because they no longer have a full-time employee to help family members with the work, he said.