Friday, December 3, 2021

Farmers Dump Dairy and Produce As Restaurant, School Closings Disrupt Demand

*As restaurants and schools shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, farmers are forced to dump fresh milk, dairy and other produce because the demand has dried up. 

Billions of dollars worth of food is reportedly going to waste as growers and producers across the nation face a massive surplus of highly perishable items, according to a National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition report, The Guardian reports. 

“Retail cannot absorb it,” said Paul Allen of RC Hatton farms in Pahokee, Florida. “Whatever else you’ve got just goes unharvested and you’ve got to mulch it back into the ground.”

“Everybody’s in the same situation,” he added of his fellow local farmers in South Florida, an area that is a major producer of vegetables for American consumers. 

“It’s all combined to just be a disastrous situation for south Florida growers, who actually had a bumper crop coming into the harvest season,” said Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.

OTHER NEWS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: China Denies Discriminating Against Africans Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

dailty farmer
The Elbe family, West Bend, watches their farm’s milk being dumped into a manure lagoon (via Twitter).

“This is really having a disproportionate effect on warm-weather states and smaller farms,” said Kara Heckert, California regional director for the American Farmland Trust. “It was kind of an overnight shift to at least a significant portion of the food system.”

via The Guardian:

Strawberries on the California coast and lettuce in the Salinas Valley “salad bowl” – which grows roughly 70% of the nation’s lettuce crop – have been hit particularly hard. And efforts to keep farmworkers safe and socially distanced in the fields mean even slower harvesting.

Dairy producers in Wisconsin, Vermont and other states have taken to dumping excess milk en masse, flooding their fields or pouring it down drains in production facilities. The loss of food service business, particularly schools systems that are large buyers of dairy products, has left producers with a highly perishable glut that they can’t easily resolve.

“We’re talking about millions and millions of pounds of cheese that have not been sold because of lost and canceled orders from food service,” said John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Yahoo reports

“There are whole companies in our industry that are dedicated to just serve the food-service industry — or 75% of their sales or 50% of their sales — and they are finding that all their orders are canceled in food service,” he added. “It’s unprecedented.”

Heckert also noted the  confusion over where the pipeline is facing the most stress.

“A lot of the grocery stores are limiting how much milk people can buy, thinking it’s going to run out. There’s a disconnect there,” she said. 

“Some consumers don’t feel safe going to the grocery store, unfortunately, because of too many people being there. I know how to get that product safely to a consumer’s hand,” said Brent Erenwert, CEO of the Houston, Texas, food distributor  Brothers Produce. “The biggest thing was to keep my employees’ jobs and keep the supply chain moving – because if people see the supply chain stop, they go into even more of a panic.”

“Our local grocery stores 10 miles away are limiting butter, milk and cheese purchases and we’re over here dumping our milk because the supply chain is not designed for what’s happening,” said Wisconsin dairy farmer Katie DiGangi. Her husband Jim added, “It’s not designed for everybody being at home. We’re all cooking at home. So we have the product available. The supply chain — i.e., the processors, the bottlers — [doesn’t] have the tools and the packaging to meet the demands of the retailers.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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