OGDEN — When the recommendation first came to stay at home and socially distance to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus, dairy farmers could keep up with demand for milk. Since then, many have been forced to dump their product.
While grocery stores limit how much milk and dairy products shoppers can buy, images of farmers forced to dump their milk in Arizona and Wisconsin have been making headlines.
The president of Utah Farm Bureau, Ron Gibson, said the same thing is happening in Utah and Idaho, as well.
His family has operated Gibson’s Green Acres Dairy Farm in Ogden for decades.
The Gibson family said the selling price for 100 pounds of milk has plummeted from $20 before the pandemic, to $11.
Gibson said demand for dairy in the service industry dropped.
With the shutdown of schools, hotels and restaurants, demand for dairy products in those areas has come to a screeching halt.
Wednesday morning, milk was dumped in a field in the state of Utah.
Gibson said milk dumping was the tip of the iceberg, crippling Utah and Idaho farmers due to the global pandemic.
“(Around) 42 percent of all dairy products produced in the United States go to food service,” Gibson said.
“We’re also seeing the softening of the export markets,” said Rick Naerebout, CEO of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. “Everyone is pulling back.
“All of a sudden, the processors that make the products that go to those food service plants, they say, ‘We can’t take any more milk. We have nowhere to sell this,’” said Gibson.
Much of the demand for milk has shifted to grocery stores, where it has flown off the shelves. Dairy West, which represents Farmers in Utah and Idaho, said they were working on a solution.
“(We want) to determine if some of the product that is available can be repackaged and distributed to retailers in the form that they need it,” said spokesperson Kristy Spence.
Gibson said cows continue to produce milk.
“These cows right here, they don’t have any idea that there is a coronavirus going on,” he said.
Even so, farmers like Gibson, who have been feeding Utah families for 150 years, said they were ready to step up to the challenge and keep their legacy alive.
“If we can’t survive this, when we’re gone, no one else will buy this farm,” he said.