April 2 update: One of the confirmed cases that Hoard’s Dairyman knew about involving Wisconsin farmers being forced to dump milk made front-page headlines in the Thursday, April 2, 2020, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That farm, Golden E Dairy, is still being paid for their milk by the dairy co-op. Here is the link to the Rick Barrett article "Wisconsin farmers forced to dump milk as coronavirus slams a fragile dairy economy."
COVID-19 has caused the biggest upheaval in markets in well over a generation. Supply chains for all foods, including dairy, are rattled from the farm to the grocery aisle.
While some products, such as fresh milk and frozen pizzas covered with Mozzarella cheese, are in extremely high demand, foodservice orders have fallen off a cliff. And it’s those foodservice orders that garner 29.8% more dairy products as detailed by Nate Donnay in the Hoard’s Dairyman Intel item "COVID-19: Will dairy demand hit the ditch?"
Milk being dumped
There are confirmed reports that milk is being dumped in Wisconsin and in some Eastern states. At the moment, it appears that logistics is an issue in the Badger State as some processors are seeking milk while others cannot process milk shipments and find a home for the resulting dairy products.
Out East, the problem is twofold. In some instances, plants process all the milk. In other instances, plants are operating below capacity because those entities cannot fully staff the facilities.
“Some employees have chosen to stay home for fear of contracting COVID-19, while others need to care for their loved ones,” wrote Sarina Sharp in the April 1, 2020, edition of the Daily Dairy Report. “Around the country, processors who made products primarily bound for foodservice are taking in less milk, and at least two processors have declared force majeure to invalidate unfavorable contracts and idle their facilities.
“Collectively, these disruptions have overwhelmed the market, resulting in unprecedented volumes of dumped milk,” continued Sharp.
A call for dairy donations
“Today, at the direction of Governor Tony Evers, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to step in and support the dairy industry amid concerns about milk disposal during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” wrote Grace Atherton in the press release DATCP Advocates for Dairy Industry Amid Milk Disposal Concerns.
“In a time when many people are already food-insecure, it’s more important than ever that we get Wisconsin’s nutritious commodities in the hands of consumers who need them most,” said Governor Evers in a letter to USDA Secretary Perdue. “I’m hopeful that our federal partners understand the urgency of the need here, and will take action accordingly.”
Guide for dumping milk
Given this market turbulence, some farms may have to dump milk. While the rules on how to dispose of milk vary from state-to-state, Wisconsin’s guidelines offer some insight as detailed in the documented Emergency Disposal of Milk for Dairy Farms during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.