SOUTH BELOIT, Ill. (WTVO) — The largest dairy company in the country files for bankruptcy.
Dean Foods is saddled with a $1 billion debt, and saw no way out.
Dean has two production plants in the Stateline. For now, everything will operate as normal.
Dairy farmers that sell milk to Dean are keeping a close eye to see how the decision will affect their business.
“Fluid milk is down because people have more choices now days,” said Hildebrant Farms owner, Amy Hildebrandt.
The country’s largest milk producer filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
For the last 35 years, Hildebrandt’s South Beloit Dairy Farm sends about 53,000 pounds of milk to Dean’s production plant in Harvard daily. She said so far, things haven’t changed.
“Our milk will go to Dean’s, they’ll pasteurize it, homogenize it, bottle it and get it to the grocery store shelves within 48 hours,” Hildebrandt said. “We’re just being hopeful. Today our milk is still going to Dean’s and we hope that it continues to go there.”
The company cites declining milk demand for the decision, but milk isn’t Dean’s only dairy product.
According to Hildebrandt, dairy as a whole hasn’t seen a downturn.
“Dairy is in the majority of people’s shopping carts. But like I said, it may not be in your fluid milk. But it will be in your cheese or in your yogurt or in your butter,” Hildebrandt said. “Flavored coffees are a milk based product so we move a lot of fluid milk through coffee. And we’re doing more with smoothies.”
The fate of Dean’s is still up in the air, the company is in talks with the Dairy Farmers of America Cooperative on a potential deal.
In that case the co-op would buy most of the company.
For farmers like Hildebrandt that isn’t a bad outcome because they wouldn’t have to ship to a new location, and the 800 cows at her farm would still have a job.
“We’re hopeful that it will keep going there. Milk is local. Our plant is 17 miles away. Majority of dairy farmers ship milk locally,” Hildebrandt said.
Another possible factor in Deans Foods filing for bankruptcy is that Walmart stopped selling the brand in stores last year after the superstore built it’s own dairy plant.
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