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Dairy farmer calls for sharing pain

The Brillion News

BRILLION - The business closings that were ordered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic hit the hospitality industry especially hard, with restaurants told to close or offer only drive-up or delivery service.

The result was a huge market loss for cheese producers, and that quickly trickled down to dairy farmers shipping milk to cheese plants.

“The year 2020 was to be the rebound year for dairy, as we were all looking at the best [milk] prices over the last three years,” said Tim Trotter, executive director of the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Cooperative. “Because of this coronavirus, now we see more devastating outcomes for dairy farmers.”

The effects down on the farm are acute, according to Gordon Speirs, owner of the Shiloh Dairy Farm in rural Brillion.

“In the number of weeks, we have lost 25 percent of our income ... and now we face the reality of having to dump milk on top of that,” Speirs said.

That’s particularly the case for farmers who send their milk to cheese makers. Beverage milk is still in high demand – even in shortage in many areas – and so farmers producing milk for the fluid market are not getting hit.

Farmers who are dumping milk are doing it at the request of their cooperative or cheese plants – and those processors plan on spreading the impact out to all of their farmers.

One farmer may dump his milk, but every farmer producing for that plant will absorb a share of the costs of dumping and it won’t fall on just the shoulders of the farmer whose milk is being dumped.

Speirs said that is only fair.

“From a producer’s standpoint, this virus has caused a nationwide problem and the dairy industry is nationwide, and again I don’t think we should be picking winners and losers,” he said. “Milk dumps should be shared equally. The cost of that [milk dumping] should be debited across the nation ... so all farmers are sharing in the losses of what a few producers to dump.”

~ This is a brief version of a major story that is still being developed and will appear on the front page of the April 9 print edition of THE BRILLION NEWS.


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