Coronavirus pandemic hurting dairy farm industry


Cows are seen at Tollgate farm on January 17, 2020 in Ancramdale, New York. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

New York, NY (WETM) – Many Upstate New York farmers are being forced to dump milk down the drain as they’re also losing money due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With many restaurants, schools and other businesses having to close, the demand for dairy has plummeted. The virus has forced dairy farms to lose millions of dollars already, with more loss to come.

According to a press release from U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer:

“New York’s dairy industry has been heavily impacted by drastic reductions in school meals, decreased demand from restaurants, and the slowdown in global trade. Prices for milk have sharply declined, making it difficult if not impossible for dairy farms to break even. Both large and small co-ops have been directing farmers to dump milk to balance supply/demand volatility and workforce shortages at processors due to COVID-19 illnesses among employees.”

According to Lance Blakemore, Owner of Sleepers Ridge Holsteins in the Town of Veteran, the demand for milk rose and dropped in just weeks.

“Week one, we sold 80 million pounds of milk,” said Blakemore. “Week two, we sold 115 million pounds of milk and week three we were down to 90 million pounds again.”

This rapid rise and decrease are due to the milk hoarding at the grocery store.

“We can’t shut the cows off,” said Erick Coolidge, Tioga County, Pa Commissioner, and Dairy Farmer.

Coolidge tells 18 News that after five-years of low pricing this was their year to recover, but instead, it’s devastating their milk industry.

In a letter to the USDA Secretary, Sonny Perdue, Senator Schumer is urging them to use all of the available resources to assist the dairy industry amid the nationwide pandemic.

“I urge the federal government to use all available resources to assist the dairy industry during this unprecedented crisis. At a minimum, USDA should immediately use the $9.5 billion emergency fund included in the CARES Act to assist dairy farmers and co-ops through this health crisis and economic downturn by developing a compensatory mechanism to farmers directed to dump milk. In addition, I urge USDA to use funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation to make dairy purchases, perhaps through a voucher system for food banks or COVID-19 displaced workers, to help ensure that people who are experiencing food insecurity and hunger have access to healthful dairy products at their time of greatest need.

I have also heard concerns from my sheep and goat dairy farmers, who are also experiencing the devastating impacts of the outbreak. I ask USDA to include sheep and dairy goat farmers in any assistance programs you develop.”

Senator Schumer is also during Perdue, to immediately release the $9.5B secured in the recent emergency package to help over 30 thousand farms in New York.

“I’m not going to say how many dairy farms we have in the county,” said Coolidge. “But I will say there are a lot less farms in Tioga County this year than last year.”

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