by: Kristin Smith
At the Keystone Grocery store in rural Spotsylvania County, milk costs more than it does in Richmond.
“They’re probably going to see milk at 4 or 5 dollars a gallon where at other stores you might see it at 2.99 or 3.29 or something like that,” says Keystone’s owner Kirk Byers.
Byers explains the state forces smaller businesses like his to pay more for milk than the grocery giants. His cost is based on bulk and he doesn’t need nearly the amount of milk that places like Walmart do.
“It means higher prices for me and higher prices for my customers because of it,” adds Byers.
Freshman Virginia Delegate John McGuire echoes that. “It’s a reoccurring theme that smaller country stores pay a higher price for milk and so I decided to introduce legislation to see if we couldn’t do something about that.”
Delegate McGuire wanted lawmakers to vote this last legislative session to lower milk prices for small business owners. Instead, he worked out a tentative solution with Virginia’s Milk Commissioner and the Department of Agriculture to lower the number of cases small stores need to purchase to get the lower rate.
“Next year should things go the way they’re supposed to go, you’re going to be buying cheaper milk in these smaller rural areas,” says McGuire.
Which would be great news for Tabetha Mekeel. The Spotsylvania mom buys a lot of milk for her family from the Keystone Grocery. She doesn’t understand why the state seemingly penalizes rural retailers.
“I don’t think its right. I mean just because they’re smaller stores doesn’t mean they should have to pay more for anything,” says Mekeel, “We live out in the country so it’s hard for us to get out to the big stores a lot of times.”
“It will mean lower prices for me and lower prices for customers,” adds Byers. Who believes the need for a Milk Commission created more than 80 years ago has changed. “I just don’t understand why we pay tax dollars for a commission to make sure we pay more for a product,” he says.
The state Milk Commission did sign a letter with its intent to change the pricing structure but it has to go through a formal process to get it done.
Ultimately, people living in rural areas could see their milk costs drop by as much as .80 cents a gallon.