Want to make a burger better? Most folks add cheese.
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Gov. Pete Ricketts says Nebraska has all the ingredients needed to grow the dairy industry but the state is working to recruit more dairy processing plants (NTV News)

“Butter and cheese make things taste good,” dairy farmer Mike Guenther said.

Guenther didn’t have to convince those attending the Nebraska State Dairy Association convention where they had a choice between cheddar and Swiss.

And while they were able to gather a year ago at this time restaurants and schools closed virtually overnight and that accounts for about half the dairy market.

Processing plants scrambled to figure out what to do with that milk.

“Early on in the pandemic we saw dairy farmers to dump milk because fluid milk market had gotten so tight,” said Mary Temme, a dairy farmer involved with the Nebraska division of the Midwest Dairy, the checkoff program.

Or as Guenther puts it, “It’s really been a roller coaster for us.”

He is president of the state dairy group and says many dairy farmers were already asking themselves if they could keep going even before the pandemic.

“Once COVID hit the price got so laughable there almost wasn’t a decision,” he said.

Nebraska dairy farmers received $10 million in the first round of USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and $7 in the second go-around.

Guenther said, “They were able to give us some relief, that kept us going, kept us afloat, fed my family.”

The government also bought dairy products to put into millions of food boxes and the industry donated milk and cheese along with refrigerators for food banks.

Plus they found when people stayed home that some rediscovered baking with butter and cooking with cheese.

“We’ve worked hard to promote dairy and get it into the home to keep that stability,” said Temme.

Gov. Pete Ricketts attended the conference. He said Nebraska has the feed and livestock-friendly counties that would welcome more dairy farms.

“That’s why our Grow Nebraska Dairy Team is working to bring in more processors to work hand in hand with our expansion of the dairy herd here,” he said.

These dairy farmers take pride knowing during dark days many Americans put dairy on the table.

“Such a nutritious product, a glass of milk — one ingredient, how awesome is that?” said Guenther.

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