Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay in a Thursday, July 23, 2020 file photo, in Burlington, Vt. Credit: Lisa Rathke / AP

The company that announced this summer that it would stop buying milk from 89 organic dairy farms in the Northeast next August has offered to extend those contracts another six months.

Danone, parent company of Horizon Organic, notified officials in Vermont, Maine and New York this week.

The 28 farms in Vermont and a total of 61 in Maine, New Hampshire and New York were expected to lose their contracts at the end of August next year when Danone would stop buying milk in the region. The company told Vermont officials that it did not want to transport milk from the region to its plant in New York and will focus their business on larger farms in Midwest and West, Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said in August.

“Since this time, we have engaged in many conversations with the impacted producers, numerous stakeholders, and various government officials to discuss additional and meaningful support for the affected farmers and the region,” Chris Adamo, a vice president at Danone North America wrote in letters to state officials and members of Congress on Monday.

Danone is now giving the producers the option to extend the contracts to the end of February 2023. It’s also providing a transition payment to affected farmers, the letter states.

But U.S. Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, who sent a letter to Danone in October asking them not to end the contracts, said Danone should do more because “farmers will still be left in the dark after the additional six months.”

“Danone knows that leaving our farmers behind is wrong, and they have the capacity to provide real support for the folks that have done so much for them,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills called Danone’s offer a “modest but welcome development” in response to pressure from officials but said there are still many challenges ahead from Danone’s decision not to renew the contracts. There are 14 organic dairy farms in Maine that will lose their contracts.

The company said it is offering to work with state and federal officials to explore co-investment solutions to address the “infrastructure, hauling and processing issues in the Northeast.” It said it’s also providing producers with free financial consultation.

Story by Lisa Rathke