Shutdown Effect: Farmers Dumping Milk, Plowing Fields Under
With restaurants and schools closed, farmers across America are dumping milk, smashing eggs, and plowing their fields under. It’s a dangerous aftereffect of the shutdown from Coronavirus. Farmers grow our food. Without buyers for their products, the perishables go bad and have to be dumped. From Canada to California, to Florida and beyond, farmers are in trouble.
Milk isn’t just for your cereal. Milk is used to make butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, and whey powder, as well as other products. And demand has dropped significantly with this shut down. The vast majority of those products are purchased in bulk by the food service industry or exported overseas. But demand has dropped, so the milk has to be dumped.
“The glut of milk led to a nationwide collapse in wholesale dairy prices. The price of milk dropped from $20 in February to $13 per hundred weight (the equivalent of 11 gallons) this week in futures markets.It’s a loss that Upstate New York dairy farmers can’t sustain because it costs about $18 per hundred weight to produce the milk.It’s pretty devastating for our farmers.” Steve Ammerman, New York Farm Bureau to Syracuse.com
Milk must be pasteurized, and cannot, under the law, be sold in its raw form. Pasteurization plants are also in trouble. Dairies are not set up to package milk for individual sale, and it would cost millions of dollars to do so.
It’s simple: if you don’t milk a cow, it stops giving milk. So it must be milked every day in order to keep the supply going. Dairies across the nation must continue to milk hundreds of thousands of cows in hopes that this shutdown will stop and demand will once again return. In the meantime, they are dumping milk.
“We’re not just dumping milk to spite people. I would give it away if I could. If I could sit out front with a lemonade stand, but with milk and cookies, I would do it.” Hank DeVries, DeVries Dairy to the Idaho Statesman
From Idaho to New York and beyond, dairy farm markets are in free fall.
The waste of food isn’t just occurring on dairy farms, vegetable growers and chicken processors are also experiencing severe downturns. Wisconsin, Ohio, Idaho, Florida, New York…it’s across the board. Idaho farmers are digging trenches to throw millions of pounds of onions to rot into the soil. Farms that raise chickens are destroying up to 750,000 eggs every week. Farmers in Florida are having to destroy perfectly ripe vegetables by plowing them under.
Though many farms are trying to donate some of their produce to food banks and charities, fresh food is perishable and can’t be kept for long. In California, people clamored to buy 25 pound boxes of tomatoes for $5. each before the tomatoes had to be destroyed.
“There is no way to redistribute the quantities that we are talking about.” Shay Myers, Idaho onion farmer who was forced to bury millions of pounds of onions.
“The quarantines have shown just how many more vegetables Americans eat when meals are prepared for them in restaurants than when they have to cook for themselves.
“People don’t make onion rings at home,” said Shay Myers, a third-generation onion farmer whose fields straddle the border of Oregon and Idaho.
Mr. Myers said there were no good solutions to the fresh food glut. After his largest customer — the restaurant industry — shut down in California and New York, his farm started redistributing onions from 50-pound sacks into smaller bags that could be sold in grocery stores. He also started freezing some onions, but he has limited cold-storage capacity.” (NYT)
All across America and Canada, farmers are in trouble. Donations to food banks that can only take a limited amount of fresh produce don’t help the farmers.
Fox Business reported,
“This is a catastrophe,” said tomato grower Tony DiMare, who owns farms in south Florida and the Tampa Bay area. “We haven’t even started to calculate it. It’s going to be in the millions of dollars. Losses mount every day.”
Florida leads the U.S. in harvesting tomatoes, green beans, cabbage and peppers this time of year. While some of the crops are meant for grocery stores, many farmers cater solely to the so-called foodservice market — restaurants, schools and theme parks — hit hard as cities and states have ordered people to stay home and avoid others.
America needs its farmers. The recent stimulus package contained $9.5 billion for aid to farmers. It may not be enough.
Featured photo: Screenshot of dairy cows via CDC Canada