Dairy industry looking for new ways to use extra milk supply in wake of coronavirus pandemic

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WAYNE COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) — Many of you have told us about the limitations or lack of dairy products in grocery store aisles.

The American Dairy Association Mideast wants people to know there’s no cause for alarm and that there is more than enough milk being produced.

The dumping at Hartschuh Dairy Farm was a tough moment for them and other Ohio dairy farmers like Kevin Spreng, the owners of Willow Brook Dairy in Wayne County after getting a call from the processing plant.

“The processing plant has so much capacity and if milk’s not leaving the processing plant, they’re not taking it in and since we’re dealing with a perishable product, there’s some time sensitivity involved in it,” he said.

Spreng said he had to dump 6,200 pounds of milk on Thursday.

“We’ve gotta feed these cows tomorrow, we’ve gotta care for them, we have a staff of 10 full-time excellent employees who have been here every day through this pandemic and they have families at home,” he said.

“The dairy industry has been really turned around 180 degrees,” said Ty Higgins with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

They and the American Dairy Association Mideast said the loss of the restaurant and school markets have changed the production chain.

“The milk that went to produce cheese and yogurt and butter now is being produced for more fluid milk,” said Higgins.

“The underlying issue to all this is we’re getting word and experiencing ourselves that retailers are reducing and restricting the amount of dairy products available to consumers,” explained Spreng.

American Dairy Association Mideast CEO Scott Higgins said discussions have been positive with grocers. 

“Our message to our grocers and our grocer association is that there’s plenty of dairy products to meet their need, to lift those limits,” he said.

Scott Higgins said Kroger tells him they are getting the message out to their stores to remove limits. 

“There are many other stores that are doing the same thing and slowly but surely we’re getting that message out,” he said.

The organizations and farmers said this goes beyond the dairy industry and many other jobs and households could be impacted.

“One of the stories that we received from our local food bank is that they had gone to purchase 38 gallons of milk for that week’s distribution and were not able to get it,” said Spreng.

Food banks are an area Scott said he’s working to supply with the surplus. 

“We’re working as quickly as we can with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and Ohio’s foodbanks to find a home for some of these dairy products that have no place to go right now,” he said.

One viewer told us her local grocery store lifted their limits after she called them. The bureau asks anyone who sees a store limiting the purchase quantity on milk to take a photo of the limit sign, note the location, date and time, and email it to Erin.Brown@Drink-Milk.com.

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