Supply glut forces some dairy producers to dump milk

By  | 

WAITSFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) Dairy farming is a tough business. Farms across the region have been shutting down or struggling to make ends meet, and that was before the coronavirus. Now, some are being forced to dump their products because no one is buying them.

"It's hard to measure precisely but over 50% of our sales have been restaurant sales, so as soon as the restaurants closed, we don't have a market for the cheese," said Sebastian von Trapp with von Trapp Farm in Waitsfield.

He says he's currently sitting on 500 blocks of artisanal cheese. He'll be giving it away before feeding it to his pigs, a rough equivalent to dumping milk.

"We haven't had to dump milk yet. We've found a few different creative ways, and that's turning our milk into different cheeses and selling our milk to other dairies that can use it," von Trapp said.

But dumping has been reported at other farms in vermont.

"It's my understanding that there is some of that activity happening now. To what extent, we don't know. This is occurring in other states as well -- notably Wisconsin and other very important dairy states," said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts.

He says grocery stores placing caps on how much dairy shoppers can buy could be part of the problem and that the agency is reaching out to grocers directly to resolve that issue. He adds that the closure of businesses that would normally require dairy products, like restaurants and schools, mean there isn't enough demand for the supply.

"So the bottom line is there's just too much milk out there and they can't find a place for it, so some are being forced to dispose of their milk until this corrects itself," Tebbetts said.

But not all sectors of the dariy industry are feeling the pain.

"I consider our products to be staples. You know, stuff you buy every week," said Jack Lazor with Butterworks Farm in Westfield.

He says his organic operation with 80 cows can't keep up with the boom in orders for his yogurt and kefir. "Apparently, since people aren't eating out all the time and they're staying home more, our orders for the last two or three weeks have been pretty much through the roof," Lazor said.

So far through the roof that Lazor is buying milk from another dairy that would otherwise be dumped.

While we did receive confirmation of milk dumping from a number of local dairy farms, none of them were comfortable speaking about it. They say the only thing left to do is wait for the market to right itself.