COVID-19: How if forced farmers to dump their milk

By Megan Gronau (TheLorian)

While the rest of the country shut down, dairy farmers continued to work day in and day out to keep up with the demand. With more people staying home, there was more product being sold in stores. Although many farmers in Wisconsin faced a dreadful reality: they had to dump milk down drains or in their fields.

With restaurants, schools and many coffee shops shut down, there was nowhere to ship dairy products. It’s something no one thought would happen and now it is reality for everyone. Processing plants had to shut down or halt production which lead back to farmers wondering if their milk will be picked up or if they would get paid for it. Many farmers wondered what would happen in the near future if they weren’t paid, or how long they can go with dumping milk. Many retail stores were also limiting how much people could purchase because of the production halt.

Dairy Farmers of America began paying many farmers for dumping their milk, but that only lasted so long because their financial shape was on a downward descent. One family had dumped roughly 600,000 pounds of milk in a month because of the amount of fluid milk in the current market. With no choice but to dump the milk, many farmers struggled with this idea. All their hard work and years of sweat, tears and blood with this being the outcome isn’t what they initially expected among this pandemic. At one point, there was around 110 farms that were dumping milk and is now on a downward trend. Many farmers had to sell out because they couldn’t keep their production up with constantly dumping milk and not getting paid.

Months behind us and with the pandemic still going on, thoughts of a brighter future for dairy farmers was in question. Restaurants, schools and many other places began to slowly open, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Production increased with places taking in product again, less farmers were dumping milk, and limits were lifted at grocery stores.

Many people questioned why the milk couldn’t be sent to cheese processing plants or turned into dry milk. The plants that are in the Midwest were all running 24/7 trying to keep up with the fluid milk that was coming in. With the consumption taking a steep spike down, there was an overabundance that no one accounted for. In terms of dry milk, this is mostly happening in the west coast, which are also working around the clock to produce this. The Midwest is primarily cheese and product states which are working constantly to produce as much as they can, but there will always be lag if there isn’t the same amount of consumption there was before Covid-19. To support these farmers and avoid having to dump more fluid milk, consumers can purchase more dairy products, especially those that are locally produced. This would help the regional dairy market, the numerous struggling farms, and those employed throughout the process.

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