Struggling dairy farmers told to dump milk, amid coronavirus outbreak

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BRILLION, Wis. (WBAY)- Many dairy farmers already struggling before the outbreak of the coronavirus are now being told to dump their milk.

Dairy cows are on display at the National Holstein Conference in Appleton (WBAY photo)

Some of this is due to an excess of dairy on the market with restaurants and schools being closed.

Over the past few weeks, dairy farmers across Wisconsin haven't been immune to the impact of the coronavirus, as many now deal with supply chain issues that have kept their product away from consumers.

Gordon Speirs is the owner of Shiloh Dairy in Brillion. He said, "The virus has picked winners and losers, and what I mean by that is some processing plants such as fluid milk processing plants, that are processing milk that can go on the store shelves there the winners right now, because people eating at home are buying a lot of fluid milk whereas plants that are making specialty cheeses for food service businesses, those businesses are shut down."

As a result local farmers and organizations promoting the dairy industry are calling on the USDA to provide immediate relief, and purchase cheese that would normally be sold to restaurants and schools that have either closed or reduced demand.

"The cheese industry has lost a great share of it's largest market. Nearly half of all cheese sold in the United States moves through food service channels, while one third is sold at retail grocery stores," said John Umhoefer, Executive Director of Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

Right now many of the warehouses storing cheese in Wisconsin are full.

Speirs says he's not among those dumping milk at the moment but tells us, it is taking place.

He added,"Not only have be lost twenty five percent of our milk check from the market crashing over the last couple of weeks, now with the challenges of dumping milk it's just a very difficult time."

If the USDA does commit to buying excess cheese, farmers say it should be given to places like area food pantries to help those in need.