As the nationwide shutdown stretches on across the country, farmers here in Florida are feeling the effects.
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The dairy co-op has now had to dump 135 tankers of milk (Credit: Brittany Nickerson Thurlow)

Over the past few weeks, demand for milk has plummeted, and local dairy farmers have struggled to curb production fast enough – leaving them with hundreds of thousands of gallons of excess milk on their hands.

Joe Wright,President of Southeast Milk Inc Dairy Co-Op says they had to dump 135 tanker truckloads full of milk earlier this month since buyers like schools and restaurants have mostly closed down.

“We just didn’t have any sales for probably 10% of our milk. I mean no sales so all we had was grocery stores sales,” Wright explained.

But even grocery stores couldn’t take in all of the extra product. Stores like Publix began limiting the sale of milk to curb panic buying, and as the extra milk piled up, the price of milk across the country began tumbling.

“Financially, we have a train wreck on our hands,” Wright told CBS12 News.

But the picture is not all bad. On Friday, Publix lifted the ban on milk sales, and local farmers say the demand began creeping up.

“A lot of the buy one per family or the limiting restrictions in the stores have now been lifted, and now it’s flowing like it needs to flow” Jacob Larson, the owner of Larson Dairy told CBS12 News.

Larson has had to curb production about 5% to meet the new market demand, and like many farmers, he’s now taking things day by day as he learns to adjust to a volatile marketplace.

“It’s a lot of balancing too much milk costs you money, not enough milk costs you money,” Larson said. “For us here at the farm, we keep doing our job. Number one we take care of the people and number two we take care of cows we leave the rest up to the Co-op if that milk is not used, it’s up to them to dispose of it.”

Wright says he’s pleased to report the Co-op has had no need to dump milk recently, but with rapidly changing demand and a bleak futures market, he says there’s no telling what tomorrow could bring.

“Today we’re not dumping milk. Doesn’t mean we won’t go back to it, but…we don’t know where we’re going to end up and we’re nervous about this.”

Despite Covid impacting restaurants, Fonterra’s food service business has reached a milestone to become a $3 billion annual revenue business.

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