Thousands of litres of milk dumped in US as pandemic deepens

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Various US dairy role players have asked agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, to intervene as billions of dollars in losses are expected at farm level in that country.

With US dairy farmers forced to dump thousands of litres of unprocessed raw milk daily amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, farm level milk prices for 2020 is expected to decline sharply.

According to a Reuters report, the largest US co-operative, Dairy Farmers of America, called on some of its 7 500 members to dump their milk as supply chains were disrupted due to the pandemic.

A dairy farmer near Chicago, Jason Leedle, told Reuters he started dumping about 4 700 gallons (almost 17 800 litres) of milk produced by over 400 cows daily, since 31 March.

He had been informed by his buyer that he would still be paid for the milk, but the price would be lower.

“It’s just gut-wrenching,” Leedle said about contemplating piping the milk his cows were producing directly into a manure pit.

In a letter to US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, co-signed by several dairy industry role players last week, it was highlighted that 80% of US citizens had been forced to shelter in their homes, which had led to the mass closure of schools, restaurants and food service outlets.

This had resulted in a severely negative impact on supply and demand, which adversely affected milk prices, and the expectation was that prices could drop below long-term sustainability levels.

They called on Perdue to use the purchasing power of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Direct relief to dairy farmers and a substantial purchase of dairy commodities by the USDA can ensure that our industry will remain fiscally able to function in its primary role of feeding the nation and the world,” the letter stated.

The challenges experienced by US dairy farmers were also being felt elsewhere, with various media reports indicating that UK dairy farmers were also dumping thousands of litres of milk that processers were unable to accommodate.

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) had called on the UK government to fund a short-term financial support scheme for dairy farmers.

“The association has put forward plans to the government asking [it] to reimburse dairy farmers who are receiving a significantly reduced value, or are having to dispose of their milk as a result of their processor being heavily reliant on the food service sector,” the RABDF said.

If approved, about 300 dairy farmers would be eligible for reimbursement through the scheme, equating to about one million litres of milk per day, the association said.

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