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Dairy Groups Urge Aid For Farmers Forced To Dump Milk Due To Declining Demand

Apr 09, 2020

Wisconsin dairy groups are calling on the federal government to aid farmers who are being asked to dump their milk in light of decreased demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

They're asking United States Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to leverage billions of dollars to buy dairy commodities from the recently passed coronavirus aid package, known as the CARES Act. 

"The CARES Act directs $14 billion to the Commodity Credit Corporation, $9.5 billion to a dedicated disaster relief fund for agriculture, $25 billion for SNAP programs, and $450 million to support food banks serving the food insecure," they wrote in a letter Wednesday. "This bill enables unprecedented support for farmers and unprecedented commodity purchases, and we need USDA to bring these forms of aid to bear immediately."

John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, said the cheese industry has lost a big share of its largest market. That market includes schools and restaurants now shuttered to the public. 

"We have seen sales decline after 9/11. We've seen sales decline when there was the banking crisis in 2009, but we're looking at over half the restaurants in the United States are either closed or operating at a reduced level," said Umhoefer. "That has never happened before."

He said they'd like the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy nonfat dry milk, butter and several cheese styles to aid farmers. Groups are also asking the agency to find ways to make dairy farmers whole who are forced to dump milk or receive lower payments.  

Gordon Speirs, who owns Shiloh Dairy in Brillion, said his 4,500-head dairy farm hasn't had to dump milk, but he said they've lost 25 percent of their income due to market instability.

By Danielle Kaeding

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