Wisconsin milk totals have reached record heights every year since 2009, and 2020 was no exception, edging up just under half a percent, to 30.7 billion pounds. But that number camouflages the seesaw nature of the year for Wisconsin dairy farmers and processors.
Milk prices plunged at the beginning of 2020, as the coronavirus took hold and schools shut down. Dairy coops and processing plants started cutting back on payments for excess milk, and as a result, supply dropped.
But demand picked up in the second half of 2020, helped by an easing of trade tensions and an expansion of government food aid that increased the need for cheese.
A dairy policy analyst at the University of Wisconsin-Madison told Wisconsin Public Radio that he’s glad to see the market come back but worried about what lies ahead: “We don’t want to be in the situation that we were in last year when we hit the brakes pretty hard and then all of a sudden discovered this new demand for cheese needed for food box programs.”