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‘There Are Ghosts in the Land’: How Us Mega-Dairies Are Killing off Small Farms

A collapse in the number of dairy farmers in states such as Minnesota is destroying livelihoods and hollowing out rural life

In late January last year, ​dairy farmers filled ​a pub in the tiny town of Greenwald, Minnesota (population 238)​. Organisers ​from the Land Stewardship Project – a sustainable agriculture nonprofit – ​expected 50 people to attend, but ​​130 showed up from all corners of the state.

Dr Richard Levins, ​professor emeritus of applied economics at the University of Minnesota​, addressed the event, which served as part elegy for the thousands of small family-owned dairies lost in recent years ​and part rallying cry for those remaining, despite the odds​.

Across the US, dairy farmers have struggled beneath the weight of an industry-wide economic crisis. T​he cause ​is the massive overproduction of milk by large dairy operations, which has​ ​saturated the market, ​driving prices ​down well below the cost of production.