A new partnership in Kentucky is combining the efforts of state dairy farmers and the world's largest retailer.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced Monday that Walmart stores in central and south-central Kentucky will soon begin stocking a line of milk products that is sourced and processed entirely at commonwealth dairy farms.
Calling it one of the most significant developments in the history of the Kentucky Proud marketing program. Comer unveiled the “Udderly Kentucky” partnership, which will stock Walmart stores in the Bluegrass State with milk from 105 Kentucky dairy farms.
The program will return a 7-cent-per-gallon premium to each participating supplier. According to Comer, the average participating Kentucky dairy operation will generate $19,000 annually from the agreement.
Comer told WKU Public Radio he's been working on the partnership with Walmart since he took office in 2012. And he says he’s aware that many in the local-food movement eye Walmart with a great deal of suspicion and even disdain, given controversy surrounding the company’s business and employment practices.
Comer says he brought the issue up with the retailer when negotiating the deal.
"I think the program will be a win for Walmart and help their image, and it would be a huge win for farmers and food processors in Kentucky who are producing a superior product, but who can't get on the shelves at Walmart stores,” said Comer, who is also a Monroe County farmer.
The Udderly Kentucky milk will be processed by Prairie Farms Dairy in Somerset. The line of products includes whole, 2%, 1%, and skim varieties in gallon sizes.
A few Walmart stores in Kentucky have been stocking Udderly Kentucky milk products during an initial trial-run.
"Three weeks ago they started putting the Udderly Kentucky milk in the freezers at the Walmarts in about five or six stores, and they were selling out,” says Comer. “It said on the carton that the milk was 100% produced and processed in Kentucky by Kentucky dairy farm families. We also have a little history of the farm on the carton, and in the shelves where the milk is displayed.”
Comer says the plan is for Walmart stores in central and southern parts of the state to stock the Udderly Kentucky milk, with the program eventually expanding to Walmarts all over the commonwealth.
The test markets for the new milk line included Walmart stores in Barbourville, Bardstown, Berea, Campbellsville, Columbia, Corbin, Danville, Frankfort, Glasgow, Georgetown, Harrodsburg, Hardinsburg, Lawrenceburg, Lebanon, Leitchfield, Lexington, London, Manchester, Middlesboro, Monticello, Nicholasville, Richmond, Somerset, Stanford, Tompkinsville, Williamsburg, and Winchester.
A list of locations where “Udderly Kentucky” milk is sold can be found at www.UdderlyKY.com.
According to Comer, many of the Kentucky dairy farmers who are supplying milk to the Udderly Kentucky campaign didn’t believe the partnership would ever materialize.
"They're shocked, because they knew we've been working on this project for over a year, and they had given up hope and didn't think there would be anyway they could get on the shelves in Walmart, which--by all accounts--is the hardest company in the world to do business with.”
Comer says dairy farmers in Adair, Barren, Metcalfe, Monroe, and Russell counties are contributing to the Udderly Kentucky effort.
He adds that he hopes to soon announce other partnerships with Walmart involving Kentucky grain and meat products.
Walmart stores in parts of central and south-central Kentucky are partnering with Bluegrass State dairy farms for a new program featuring locally-sourced milk.
The Udderly Kentucky brand will return a 7-cent-per-gallon premium directly to each participating Kentucky dairy farmer, and the milk will be processed by Prairie Farms Dairy in Somerset.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced the new program Monday in Lexington.
The Udderly Kentucky program will feature whole, 2%, 1%, and skim varieties of milk, and will be test-marketed in several Walmart stores in our listening area, including those in Bardstown, Campbellsville, Columbia, Glasgow, Hardinsburg, Lebanon, Leitchfield, London, Monticello, Somerset, Tompkinsivlle, and Williamsburg.