Amid Food Industry Shifts, Farmers Dump Milk

Demand for dairy products at the grocery store is soaring, with milk purchases up 53 percent in the week that ended March 21 compared to the same period last year, according to Nielsen data.

After years of falling prices, farmers ought to be elated with the clamor for milk, butter, and cheese.

But as Reuters reports, food supply chains face financial and technical barriers to shift production to cater to a suddenly inflated retail market. Many production lines were designed to stock restaurant pantries that have gone dark in response to the coronavirus pandemic. More people are now buying at the grocery store, which requires different packaging.

The mismatch in supply chains is resulting in farmers having no market for their product. One farmer told Reuters that he is dumping 4,700 gallons of milk a day since last Tuesday.

What happens to dumped milk? Because of its high concentration of nutrients, which can feed algae growth in lakes and rivers, it has to be handled with care.

In a public notice, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection reminded farmers that milk is to be treated with the same caution as manure and wastewater from dairy operations.

If farmers need to dump milk in a hurry, Wisconsin regulators recommend diverting it into manure holding tanks. Otherwise, they need to follow their existing plans for spreading milk and manure on fields.

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