“Men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the crime, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. … There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. … In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”
— John Steinbeck, The Grapes Of Wrath (1939)
Wisconsin Dairy Industry Calls For Help As Farmers Forced To Dump Milk Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
“This year was to be the rebound year. Now we see even more devastating outcomes for dairy farmers.”
By Chris Hubbuch
Wisconsin State Journal (4/3/20)
Wisconsin’s dairy industry is calling for federal help as farmers have begun dumping milk because of falling demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite empty grocery store shelves in recent weeks, widespread closures of schools and restaurants — coupled with falling exports — have led to a sharp drop in demand.
“This is without precedent,” said John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. “Half the restaurants in the U.S. are closed or operating at a reduced level. That has never happened before.”
The market crash comes just as many farmers are readying for spring planting and on the heels of a year in which one out of 10 dairy farms went out of business.
With more than they can sell, processors are refusing to pick up milk from farmers, who are left to dump it into manure pits or spread it on fields.
“We’re not the kind of factory that can just turn out the lights,” said Gordon Speirs, owner of the 2,100-cow Shiloh Dairy in Brillion.
The Cheese Makers Association and Dairy Business Association are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide direct aid and make “a massive dairy commodity purchase” that could be distributed to food pantries.
“We have a lot of cheese in storage,” Tim Trotter, executive director of the Dairy Business Association. “Let’s get it to the people who need it.”
Rebekah Sweeney, director of communications and policy for the Cheese Makers Association, said U.S. dairy exports, which account for about 15% of sales, have been wiped out since the onset of the new coronavirus that has sickened more than 1 million people and killed tens of thousands worldwide.
And processors have lost a third to one half of their business in recent weeks as schools, restaurants and other institutions were shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. …
[Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2020. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org ]