'Nowhere for it to go': Dairy farmers dump their milk down the drain
TORONTO -- Dairy farmers across Canada and the U.S. are watching their profits go down the drain as they try to manage the widespread disruptions the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to their industry.
John Walker of Walker Dairy Inc., near Aylmer, Ont., said his farm was asked last week to start disposing of its milk oversupply.
"There is just nowhere for it to go," Walker told CTV News London on Sunday. "Schools, restaurants, and even Tim Hortons' amount of cream is down. Those are all things that have slowed down demand for our product right now."
Dairy farmers in the U.S. are feeling the same pressures, according to Nikki Boxler, who owns a family dairy farm called Boxler Dairy in Varysburg, New York.
Boxler said she too, has been forced to start dumping her milk supply because processing plants are at capacity.
“Watching your hard work literally go down the drain is heart-wrenching. The wasted product represents our livelihood and the massive amount of hard work that takes place year-round to produce it,” she said Sunday in a Facebook post.
Boxler also said that the perishable nature of milk has meant the dairy industry is getting “hit harder and earlier than other agricultural commodities.”
Similar stories of tankers full of milk being dumped are also being reported by dairy farmers in Georgia, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
In a statement released last week, the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) acknowledged the “significant impacts” COVID-19 has had on farmers across the country, including a near complete shutdown of restaurants and a big shift in grocery-shopping patterns.
“The dramatic changes in demand and the related challenges being felt throughout the supply chain have resulted in the need for the disposal of some raw milk, which is extremely unfortunate and difficult,” part of the statement read.
The Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), the marketing group that represents more than 3,800 dairy farmers across the province, said it has only asked producers to dispose of raw milk once before in its 55-year history.
In an email to CTVNews.ca on Monday, DFO CEO Cheryl Smith said the agency has informed producers the dumping measures would be necessary “on a select and rotating basis.”
“This is an emergency measure only. The affected farmers were individually contacted April 1 and 2. DFO is constantly examining supply and demand needs and will re-evaluate our on-farm measures on a weekly basis,” Smith added.
Meanwhile, the DFC said itis working with partners across the supply chain to manage the sudden fluctuations in the industry.
In an email response, DFC Director of Communications Lucie Boileau said more than 2.5 million litres of milk have been given to food banks over the last week
CTVNews.ca reached out to the Canadian Dairy Commission (CDC) to find out if the farmers affected by the financial losses incurred by having to dump their milk would be compensated for the wasted product, but did not receive a response before this article was published.