Why farmers are dumping milk at the farm, but stores have empty shelves

At the beginning of 2020, Georgia dairy farm families were looking forward to a slight recovery in farm milk prices.  Southeast dairies were entering the time of year when cows naturally produce more milk due to favorable spring weather, called our ‘Spring Flush.’ During this time, dairy cows naturally produce more milk. 

Then Covid-19 hit the U.S. in February. Here’s what it did to milk producers almost immediately:

1). Schools closed - and it is the #1 market for fluid milk in the U.S.  Although so many school officials are working to continue providing meals to families in need, it's not enough and the volume consumed now is considerably down. (WE ARE SO GRATEFUL FOR THESE SCHOOL SYSTEMS FOR THEIR EFFORTS TO PROVIDE MEALS TO THOSE IS NEED)

2). Restaurants/Food services businesses closed down - and this industry accounts for 40% of the dairy (especially butter and cheese) consumed in the U.S. each year.  These sudden changes, along with other uncertainties, forced some dairy manufacturers to cut or change production schedules or build inventories. With plants operating at capacity or on a reduced schedule, there is more milk right now than space available in processing plants.

3). Dumping milk was our last resort - Before milk can be sold in stores or turned into product, it must undergo processing. This, in combination with the perishable nature of our product, resulted in a need to dispose of raw milk on farms quickly and was a last resort. 

Why are some stores limiting gallon sales at their stores?

That’s a judgement call made individually by each retailer. This is the same for the price of a gallon of milk at the store.  Due to panic buying, distribution challenges and employee absences, some retailers placed limit signs up at the dairy case to make sure they can have enough product for customers each day.  Our industry has assured grocery retailers that there is a strong, abundant supply of milk available to fulfill their needs.

If you experience stores limiting the amount of dairy shoppers may purchase, ask to speak with a manager to express your disappointment and that restricting purchases is not necessary when there, not a milk shortage.  You can also email us at gamilkproducers@gmail.com with a picture of the sign, name of the store and it's location.  We will contact them as soon as possible.

How long will it last? Nobody knows. How long will Covid-19 impact your life? Nobody knows. But rest assured that American farmers and those businesses that support agriculture are deemed essential businesses.  They continue to produce healthy, nutritious food for your family every day. 

HOW CAN YOU HELP OUR U.S. Dairy Industry?

1) Of course, buy more dairy. Remember, you can freeze milk (one month) cheese and butter. Dairy is great for your immune system, and is an inexpensive way to get the protein and essential nutrients you need.  Plus IT'S DELICIOUS!

2) Donate milk to your local food bank. Because of Covid-19, you cannot just deliver milk to the food bank - so call ahead to ask about making a donation. Financial donations are a good way to go for now.

 

3) Write/call your state and federal officials. Communicate directly with the Governor, USDA and even the President. Support is needed NOW.

4). Pray for our farmers during this time.

5). Make sure your school meal feeding program has milk and can give out better tasting, additional milk to each family during the pandemic! We are working at the grassroots level to help add more milk to our school meal programs during the pandemic. ***Does your county need help with securing more milk for their school meal program during the COVID-19 outbreak? Do they have challenges with storing milk? Do they want to increase their milk deliveries??

 

In an effort to support schools, farmers, and families during this public health crisis, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking swift action to ease the process of providing meals during COVID-19 related school closures. These actions include:

  • Granting nationwide waivers allowing parents to pick-up meals for their kids in all states;

  • Allowing states to operate meal sites that are open to all children, in all areas, including those that are not low-income (i.e. where less than 50% of children receive free or reduced-price meal following the summer feeding regulation);

  • Delaying administrative deadlines associated with the Community Eligibility Provision and other monitoring and reporting requirements to ease burdens on schools that are currently closed due to COVID-19;

  • Making it easier for sites to provide multiple meals at once by waiving meal times requirements; and

  • Waiving requirement that afterschool meals and snacks served through certain programs include educational activities, in order to minimize exposure to the coronavirus

  • Allowing states to waive meal pattern requirements so they can create meals with foods they have on hand.

  • All fat varieties of milk are allowable.

 

 

USDA has also launched an online tool – the “Meals for Kids” Site Finder – to help families find meals for children while schools are closed. The “Meals for Kids” interactive map directs people to local sites where kids can get free meals. The site finder currently lists more than 20,000 meal sites from 23 states, and more sites will be added as states submit data each week. The map is available in both English and Spanish at www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids.

 

If your school would like to provide additional milk to each child/family or if your county is experiencing milk distribution issues, please contact:

 

North/Central GA:  Nicole Duvall               email: accmclassroom@gmail.com  or phone:  (706) 474-0264

South GA: Candice Moody Rice                 email: cmrice@atc.cc or phone: (912) 286-4726

 

Our farmers are working at the grassroots level to resolve these issues quickly and want to ensure that each child/family receives the nutrition they need during this health crisis.

© 2020 by Georgia Milk Producers, Inc. 

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