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Dairy Feature Friday: Bowser Milk

In his 45 years driving and owning milk trucks, Ron Bowser, Bowser Milk, Armstrong County, watched the western Pa. dairy industry evolve. Ten years ago, he picked up milk at 140 farms; today, his 12 trucks and 14 employees pick up at 90 farms in 16 counties.

“We might have 15 stops before our truck was full,” Ron remembered. “Now, it could be three to four farms for a truck, and some farms are truckload farms.”

This spring, he watched a global pandemic disrupt everything.

“April was pretty bad,” shared Ron. “We had two different markets. We dumped 14 truckloads of milk at the farms and other customers had to reduce their milk supply by 15%. We parked some of our milk trucks for two weeks.”

Ron’s wife, Kim, continued, “Our dairy farmer customers were calling us constantly. Our employees and customers are family. We try to take care of each other.”

As a liaison between his farmer customers and dairy plant customers, Ron helped facilitate communication in an attempt to keep milk moving and prevent additional dumping.

By May 1, most of the excess milk found a home as processing plants adjusted to the pandemic-driven demand shifts and government programs helped distribute milk to those in need.

To maintain their employee payroll during these disruptions, Ron and Kim turned to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “We initially applied for a PPP loan at our bank,” Kim recalled. “But we seemed to get pushed to the back burner.”

During a conversation with their loan officer, they learned that AgChoice was a PPP loan option.

“Ron met our loan officer on Interstate-80 with our paperwork,” said Kim. “She called the next day and the loan went through. It was a life saver.”

Despite agriculture’s continued uncertainty, Ron believes his business, started by Kim’s father and uncle in the late 1950s, has a future. He hopes the business survives for his sons, the next generation of milk truck drivers. “It’s every day of the week and holidays; if roads are bad, you have to go,” Ron said. “But there will be milk to haul, as long as people keep drinking it.”

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