Sharp Decline in Demand Leave Dairy Farmers and Milk Haulers Down in the Dumps
Little Rock – AR – America’s dairy farmers are being forced to dump thousands and thousands of gallons of milk as demand has dropped sharply due to shelter in place orders in most states.
After an initial surge in demand for milk following President Trump’s national emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13, dairy farmers are now left with signficant excess supply.
As Transportation Nation Network (TNN) has reported, panic buying among American consumers has largely fallen off in recent weeks.
The pull forward in demand for staples like bread and milk is now catching up to dairy farmers throughout the U.S.
According to a report in MilkBusiness.com, Kristen Coady, spokesperson for Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), says the surplus of milk has been caused by both a pull back in consumer spending as well as the closure of most restaurants and schools around the country.
As a result of plummeting demand, milk haulers are feeling the pain too.
Images of milk haulers being forced to dump thousands of gallons of milk began surfacing last week.
Cherie Hime, executive director of the International Milk Haulers Association (IMHA) tells TNN, “Unfortunately, there is nowhere for the milk to go.”
She said a survey of IMHA’s members in mid-March revealed “hauling did pick up at first.”
However, she says now farmers are being asked to cull cows and dump the milk at the farm.
“It may not even get on the truck,” she said.
Long-time dairy professionals say the dumping is unprecedented.
Last week, dairy farmer Ben Butler took to Twitter to show his company’s dumping in South Florida.
“We still have to feed and care for our cows, and our farmers are still milking cows, in hopes that we can sell that milk in the future,” Butler wrote.
Butler further explained his milk was being dumped in farming fields to be used at fertilizer. He said the “trucks drove for a mile in the field before they were empty.”
According to a report in Agweb.com, Arnie VanDieden, a dairy producer in Texas, says she’s never seen anything like it.
“This is the first time in the 32 years I’ve been in business that we’ve had to dump milk in the fields,” she told the news outlet.
Among those hardest hit are the dairy farmers and the haulers that service them in the northeast, especially in New York.
New York remains a hot spot in the health crisis.
Governor Andrew Cuomo was the second governor in the country to issue a stay at home order taking effect on March 22, and requiring all non-essential businesses to close and travel to cease.
The impact of the closures have been devastating to the State’s businesses and dairy producers in particular.
Experts say one possible solution to the problem of excess of milk supply is to remove restrictions on consumers at grocery stores by allowing them to purchase more milk.
As panic buying ramped up, some grocery stores imposed restrictions limiting the number of gallons of milk consumers could purchase.
Doing away with those restrictions would help, experts say.
Michael Dykes, president and CEO of International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), told Agweb.com part of the solution to excess demand could also be utilizing government programs to distribute the milk to those who need it most.
“We need to make sure that America’s food banks are replenished,” says Dykes. “When we look at what they’re suggesting, foods banks are buying 10 times as much food as they were on a six-month basis, from $50,000 to $500,000. They’re estimating they need $1.4 billion of food. So, we need to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure that food in the food banks is there. Our industry has it, and Americans needed it.”
TNN will continue to follow new developments.
Photo courtesy Ben Butler