Perry County dairy farmers asked to dump thousands of pounds of milk amid COVID-19 outbreak

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LOYSVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) — Seven Perry County dairy farmers have been asked by their processor, Harrisburg Dairies, to begin dumping their milk.

In a Facebook post that has reached over 700,000 people across the country, one of these Loysville, Perry County farmers gave a raw look at what it’s like to watch their hard work literally go down the drain.

“We knew there was going to be some hurt, some pain through this virus. I was kind of surprised how quickly it hit us,” said Donny Bartch, owner of Merrimart Farms.

“I was reading about this happening somewhere else and said, ‘I wonder if this is going to happen to us locally,’ and two days later, you get the word that the same exact thing is happening to us,” said Bill Lyons, partner/owner of Lyons Brothers Farm.

Schools in Pennsylvania and neighboring states are closed indefinitely, which is one of Harrisburg Dairies’ biggest clients, while national retailers and processors are struggling to stock big store shelves due to panic buying.

“We couldn’t understand why they were limiting milk sales at stores, while we’re hearing we have to dump milk,” Bartch said.

Those stores often don’t buy local, and their suppliers and processors are being bogged down by demands. Milk also has a short shelf life, meaning it either has to be processed quickly or it goes to waste.

In two days, their farms will dump right under 55,000 gallons of milk. It’s a raw deal since they can’t even sell it raw.

“We have to have certain permits in Pennsylvania to do that, and that is not an option,” Bartch said.

The only option is to dump in the manure pit, safely away from any water. That manure pit is the same place where the industry has been for the past couple years, but recently, it started to improve.

“You have to keep a sharp pen. You know what’s coming in and what’s going out. You know, something like this, when it shows up, nobody can expect it or predict it or plan for it,” Bartch said.

The only certainty they have is their faith in farming. They’ll be asked to dump a full’s day of milk every weekend until their situation improves, but these men don’t tire easily.

“We’re all in the same boat together, all of the farmers. It seems like we rise up together when the need comes,” Lyons said.

Bartch said local officials are working on a plan to get the surplus milk into local food banks, but since it’s shelf life is so short, logistics like refrigeration, storage and transportation need to be worked first.

If you see a store without milk, contact Harrisburg Dairies by phone at 1-800-692-7429 or email at sales@harrisburgdairies.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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