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Three large dairy co-ops to vote on merger in December


UNDATED (WSAU)   Wisconsin could soon have the nation’s third-largest dairy cooperative. Directors of three co-ops have voted to merge – and their members will decide by mid-December whether to go along. If they do, Family Dairies U-S-A, the Manitowoc Milk Producers, Milwaukee Cooperative Milk Producers would combine to form the Farm-First Cooperative in January.

Officials say all three co-ops are in sound shape financially – and combining them would create new efficiencies and improve the members’ benefits. The new group would have 5,400 dairy farms producing around 13-billion pounds of milk in Wisconsin and a half-dozen other Midwest states. Only the California Dairies and the Dairy Farmers of America would be larger.

The new co-op would be the largest in the Midwest, just ahead of Land O’Lakes. The Farm-First Co-op would be headquartered in Madison, where Family Dairies U-S-A is now run. That group began in 1971 as the Farmers’ Union Milk Marketing Co-Op. The Milwaukee group was originally formed in 1916, and the Manitowoc Milk Producers started operating in 1933.