As the COVID-19 gives birth to food shortages nationwide, word out of Chicago is that dairy farmers are having to dump their milk. When dairy farmers Jason Leedle received the fateful call on Tuesday evening, he could not help but feel his stomach start to churn.
The call came from an individual with the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), which is the largest US Dairy cooperatives. The individual simply said: “We need you to start dumping your milk.”
Despite the increased demand for such food products as those in the dairy arena, the coronavirus epidemic has been creating a whole host of disruptions when it comes to the dairy farmers not only getting their products to market but into the hands of consumers.
With the closures of restaurants and schools nationwide, there has been a sudden shift from wholesale foodservice industries to the retail grocery industry. With the change comes, what can only be termed a logistical as well as packaging nightmare for those dairy plants that process milk, butter, and cheese.
The logistical nightmare has trickled all the way down to the trucking industry, as those that haul primarily dairy products are having to scramble to acquire enough drivers due to the fact that those who fear the coronavirus have completely stopped working. Add in the fact that the foodservice sector has all but closed down globally, and one can see the real problem of it all.
According to farmers, food distributors, and agricultural economists, the dairy industry’s problems signal an even broader issue in the supply chain on a global scale. The dairy industry felt the pinch earlier and harder than other sectors as their products are high perishable—they are not able to be frozen as meat can or stored in a silo such as grain.
Along with the dairy industry, other food sectors are feeling the effects of COVID-19. Due to travel restrictions, disruptions are occurring worldwide as the limits continue in regards to the required workforce needs to plant, harvest, and then distribute both fruits and vegetables.
As for Leedle and his dilemma—he would most likely be able to sell his milk, but only if he could get it to market. It is no secret that dairy products have been in significant demand, as most Americans are staying at home due to the pandemic. And, it seems that panic buying may be ebbing as well at this point.
Will the dumping of the nation’s milk supply see a driving up of the price at the grocery stores?