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Economic woes hit dairy farmers

Mick Rausch says cows are creatures of habit. So are dairy farmers. At about 6 every morning, Rausch heads out to the holding pen on his farm north of Garden Plain and herds his cows into the barn for their morning milking. All told, it takes him about four hours.

He has done this twice a day, virtually every day, for 33 years.

"It's all I've ever done," Rausch said.

But the industry isn't rewarding this devotion. Prices plunged well below costs in 2009, driving some dairies, even some of the largest, out of business and placing many more under financial strain.

More than 2,000 dairies nationwide have gone out of business in the past two years, according to the National Farmers Union, because of low prices and falling demand.

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