CONOY TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, P.A. --- For dairy farmers like Justin Risser, co-owner of Meadow Vista Dairy, the most stressful parts of 2018 include a wet spring and low milk prices.
"The main objective is to protect ourselves but yet leave options open so that when milk prices do come up, we don't limit any sort of income," said Risser.
Jayne Sebright, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence said prices are going up, two or three dollars more than the start of the year.
While it's a sign for optimism, she said it isn't, necessarily, a feel-good moment.
She said while demand remains at firm levels, supply is coming down, which means production could be slowing or farms are going out of business.
"That allows them to break even on a month-per-month basis but it doesn't allow them to catch up on what they would've lost in the first half of the year," said Sebright.
She said acts of Congress improved the airy Marginal Protection Program, or MPP, making it a more meaningful safety net for farmers as opposed to year's past.
Sebright explained it acts more like an insurance that provides a stable indemnity payment on losses for farmers, serving as a potentially safer option than market-based risk management due to low milk prices.
Risser, who signed up for the MPP, said it's retroactive payout, which covers losses starting January 1, made it an attractive option.
"It actually does trigger a margin that is slimmer than what we've experienced in the past," said Risser.
While the dairy industry has brought challenges over the last few years, Risser said it’s making them build business acumen for the future.
He said they're trying to maneuver not only the world market, but markets in the midwest, as well.
"It really helps us to be competitive going forward knowing that we have to in order to be sustainable here in the northeast," said Risser.
If a farmer wants to sign up for the Marginal Protection Program, the deadline to sign up at a local Farm Service Agency, or FSA, is this Friday, June 1.