07/05/2012 03:06 EDT | Updated 09/03/2012 05:12 EDT

Groups advocate fair trade in dairy industry, ask consumers to pay more for milk to save farms

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Consumers will pay a little more for coffee and chocolate to ensure the farmers who produce those foods get a fair wage, so why not ask them to pay more for milk?

That's the idea behind a program designed to raise money for struggling New England dairy farms. Keep Local Farms urges colleges, universities and other institutions to charge a little more for milk, with the extra money going to farmers in the region.

It is among a number of nongovernment programs being created to try to preserve small, family-operated farms as consolidation continues in the dairy industry.

The programs borrow from the fair trade movement, in which consumers pay a little bit more for items like chocolate and coffee to provide workers with decent wages and sound environmental practices.