Tom Barley knows he is part of a bigger dairy-food chain, and that has prompted him to gain some negotiating leverage.

Barley met with the procurement manager of a processing plant that buys his milk (although technically the milk is brokered through his co-op). The procurement manager verified that the plant wants high-quality milk. Barley was glad to hear that, since the somatic cell count at his 1,050-cow Pennsylvania dairy runs around 180,000, on average. He lives just two miles away from the plant, so the milk cannot be delivered any fresher.

It’s a win-win situation. The processor gets high-quality milk, and Barley gets a quality premium from his co-op, along with a reduced trucking charge since the plant is so close.

The plant managers “like our milk,” he says. “I’m sure they don’t want it to go somewhere else.”