Nearly one month into the sweeping changes brought to the U.S. by the COVID-19 threat, the initial shock has worn off.

Lives are proceeding in ways that are drastically different from just a few weeks ago.

That’s meant that our immediate, and correct, response to the crisis – our continuous concern for the health of the dairy farmers and workers who are providing the nation with nutritious and necessary products under great stress – has been joined by other needs, as the economic impacts of this severe disruption to dairy supply chains becomes evident.

Dumping and limits contrasted
There’s no need here to repeat in detail what’s already been stated in numerous media articles – milk without a market due to the near-evaporation of food service orders is being dumped in the countryside. This is a source of tremendous frustration to producers, and it’s also difficult for many consumers to understand, as some of them are still facing milk purchase limits due to supply chain disruptions and strong retail dairy demand. This is a harsh reality of what happens when marketing streams are required to change overnight and can’t.

Another harsh reality is what’s happened to dairy prices in recent weeks, as forecasters expect no quick recovery in food service and cash-strapped consumers will increasingly have less money to buy dairy. The USDA’s latest supply and demand report shows the department’s All-Milk price for this year falling to $14.35 per cwt., nearly $4 per cwt. lower than what was expected just one month ago. The report predicts no change in 2020 milk production but weaker prices on lower total sales.

Dairy never stops
Compounding these problems are that, unlike some other commodities, dairy never stops producing. Dairy is made around the clock, 365 days a year. That makes the immediate need for federal assistance from USDA and Congress even more acute for dairy than for other worthy commodities seeking support during this difficult time.

NMPF and the International Dairy Foods Association have developed a joint plan to aid dairy through this unprecedented crisis. It’s a mix of payments to producers, emergency purchases of dairy products for distribution through food banks, and market stabilization measures designed to limit dumping and help make sure dairy producers and processors stay in business to serve the public in good times and bad.

The organizations are also asking the dairy community and broader public to make its influence felt as well. NMPF’s social-media campaign, #dairyneverstops, is designed to encourage conversation about policy solutions for dairy and urge USDA and elected officials toward immediate action. We’re also eager to get feedback, thoughts, and ideas at info@nmpf.org, ensuring that anyone who wants to help dairy can do so.

A half decade of hardship
Because, for all its strength and resilience, dairy needs that help. This crisis is a profound challenge for the industry, just as it is for everyone else. But after just coming off a half decade of hardship due to low prices, dairy’s capacity to absorb this latest blow is limited, and because of its nature, there is little time to wait.

The coronavirus struggle continues, with the industry’s health joining public health as a top-of-mind concern. Dairy will get through this crisis – but the moment to join in aiding it is now.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2020
April 13, 2020
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