Dairy farms in North Carolina are dumping excess milk because of a lack of demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
About half of dairy sales come from food services, including schools, restaurants and hotels, according to Stephanie Ward of North Carolina State University Extension. Those sales are essentially gone because of stay-at-home orders. Ward says milk sales at grocery stores have gone up approximately 20%-25% in the Southeast region of the U.S., but not enough to offset the losses.
Elizabeth Moretz of The Dairy Alliance says farmers were hopeful at the beginning of 2020 that profits would go up because of increased milk prices after years of low prices.
"And then this just kind of came out of nowhere," Moretz said. "It's even more difficult when you add in the fact that nobody really knows when this is going to end... It feels like a punch to the gut."
Moretz says the industry is looking at ways to increase sales, including asking restaurants that are open to use more dairy products, such as adding extra cheese to pizzas. She adds that there's some movement in the U-S Department of Agriculture toward possibly buying excess milk from farmers to help alleviate their stress.
Ward worries that some farms may not be able to recover from this economic hit. She encourages people to consider buying from local farms if they can't find food at the grocery store, and to help them stay afloat.
Moretz says there's some movement in the U-S Department of Agriculture toward possibly buying excess milk from farmers to help alleviate their stress.