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Fourth generation dairy farmer uncertain about farm's future

Richard and Paul Johnson Richard and Paul Johnson
County Road 6 in La Crescent County Road 6 in La Crescent

Some Minnesota dairy farmers are in trouble after new Canadian regulations won't allow them to sell their product across the border. 

Not only do they risk losing their profits and cattle, but also their jobs.

Spring in Minnesota means a fresh start. The snow has melted, and green blades of grass poke through the ground, but for Paul Johnson, spring means uncertainty.

"We've been searching for the last two weeks for somebody to buy our milk, but we haven't had any luck yet," said Johnson, a herd manager at a La Crescent dairy farm.

On April 4th, Johnson got a letter from Grassland Dairy Products, the farm's distributor, saying they could no longer buy their milk. "The big problem in Canada was they were importing milk when they had milk in Canada and their farmers didn't like it."

This means that if Johnson can't find another distributor by May 1, he would have to sell all 125 of his dairy cows. "We could dump it down the drain for a little while, but we don't have any income without milk sales so we could probably only do that for about a month." This would eventually put Johnson and his five coworkers out of a job.

On Monday, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken urged President Trump to support the ten dairy farms affected in Minnesota.

"Sleeping is, you don't do a lot of sleeping. A lot of people are in this boat and obviously we're not all gonna be picked up by somebody. So there's gonna be fall out, and I don't know if I'm gonna be one of them or if I'm not gonna be one of them," said Richard Johnson, a retired dairy farmer.

Richard is Paul's father, and besides being proud of his son, he's proud of the dairy farm that's been in his family for four generations.

"My grandpa immigrated here in 1887 and he bought this farm. I was born here, this is the only place I know. It's the only thing I know. Dairy is a lifestyle, because your life is completely dependent on the dairy. It's everyday, it's 365 a year, twice a day."

The Johnson's hope that their fresh start means keeping the animals they consider members of the family.

"My favorite part for me is working with the cows. If you're having a bad day they're always listening. They're never mad at you, they're always there," said Paul Johnson.

The Johnson's have called over 100 different distributors in two weeks. Paul said he has a few potentials but he's currently playing things by ear.

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