DFA asks selected farmers to dump milk because of COVID-19 demand shift
Milk dumping has begun.
West Bend, Wisconsin farmer Chris Elbe operates Golden E Dairy, where they supply milk to Dairy Farmers of America for fluid consumption. He tells Brownfield the first truckload went in the lagoon Tuesday night. “I was contacted by the section area manager and told that I need to start dumping as soon as possible, so I started dumping at eight-o-clock last night.”
Elbe says he’s milking 24-hundred cows and producing about 220 thousand pounds of milk every day. “I was just told we won’t be taking milk to the dairy before Monday.”
And with 1.2 million pounds of milk getting dumped before Monday, it’s still a mystery if Elbe will be paid for it. “I was told that I will be reimbursed somehow by the government, not from DFA but the government.”
Elbe says he knows of about ten large dairies that also supply DFA’s fluid milk plants in southeastern Wisconsin that have also begun dumping milk.
Dairy Farmers of America issued a statement saying the uncertainty of COVID-19 and evolving consumer buying habits is causing the demand for dairy products to change.
Brownfield has contacted several milk processors and cooperatives. So far, only Associated Milk Producers Inc. has responded, confirming that they are not asking producers to dump milk.
The state’s ag department says they have asked the USDA to step in and support the dairy industry during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers says in a time when people are already food-insecure, it’s more important than ever to get Wisconsin’s nutritious commodities in the hands of consumers who need them the most.
This story will be updated as processors provide information.
Following is the full statement issued by Dairy Farmers of America 4/1/20:
Kristen Coady, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Dairy Farmers of America says, “In this ever-changing situation, our number one priority remains the safety and well-being of our farm families and employees.
We are diligently working to ensure our farm families’ milk continues to be picked up, our plants continue to operate, and we continue to provide consumers and communities with wholesome dairy products during this difficult time.
With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and evolving consumer buying habits, we are seeing demand for dairy products change. While we initially saw increased demand at grocery stores as consumers stocked up on many products, like dairy, in anticipation of potential quarantines and shelter-in-place orders, the retail demand is starting to level off. For this reason, we anticipate that milk will be more readily available at grocery stores in the coming weeks. Also, during this time, we’ve seen reduced needs in the foodservice sector with school and restaurant closures, which has resulted in an overall surplus of milk.
These sudden changes in demand, are resulting in uncertainty, and are forcing some dairy manufacturers to cut or change production schedules or build inventories. Due to the excess milk and plants already operating at capacity, there is more milk right now than space available in processing plants. This, in combination with the perishable nature of our product, has resulted in a need to dispose of raw milk on farms, in some circumstances.
We continue to work with our customers to explore additional options to retain as much value from our farm families’ milk as possible and to exhaust all possible avenues to find a home for their milk.”