Dairy leaders discuss milk dumping, ask USDA to buy products
Dairy industry officials in Wisconsin say the demand losses and shifts from the COVID-19 outbreak are badly hurting farmers and processors, and they’ve asked USDA to immediately start purchasing large quantities of dairy products for food relief. John Umhoefer is with the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. “What we’re looking for today is a quick building of this program so that we can get money in the hands of dairy farmers and get product moving to people.”
Some processors have asked farmers to dump milk, and others are either requesting or demanding production cuts. For farmers that must dump milk, Umhoefer says it’s possible they will be reimbursed by the government. “There (are) good indications so far that they can use the kind of programs that were put in place by the CARES Act, the most recent relief package, where family feeding programs for the Commodity Credit Corporation, and other programs, disaster relief programs. There are dollars allocated for this sort of purpose.”
Producer Gordon Spiers says it’s important not to let a handful of producers take the losses alone. “The pain, I believe, should be shared throughout the entire dairy industry. Again, we don’t want to be picking winners and losers from one area or the other.”
Umhoefer, Spiers, and Dairy Business Association President Tim Trotter participated in a press conference Thursday and emphasized the need for USDA to immediately step in with assistance.
Umhoefer says farmers and processors that have to dump milk need to document it, and in his state, report losses to the Wisconsin Farm Center. He says, “The Department of Agriculture (Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection) has asked plants and farms to report in to their Farm Center when they have a dumping incident with the milk, and so we look to the Department of Agriculture in the state to begin to be a resource on that data.”
The seven Wisconsin agriculture organizations that sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue Thursday asking for purchases of dairy products are Cooperative Network, Wisconsin Farm Bureau, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, the Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Farmers Union, and the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.