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Utah dairy farmers struggling as pandemic causes price decline for milk

Posted at 7:17 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 21:17:59-04

CACHE COUNTY, Utah — Dairy farmers in Cache Valley are producing food for grocery stores, schools and food services across the state, the nation and across the world, but because COVID-19 is a global pandemic, they’re feeling a global impact.

Kristi Spence with Dairy West said there are 155 dairy farmers in Utah who were looking forward to a good year for milk prices.

“This coronavirus crisis has changed all of that,” said Spence.

Cows are still producing milk, but consumers have stopped buying.

Immediately after stay at home directives and orders were issued, Spence said people raced to the stores to buy milk.

“Restaurants started closing and people needed to get to grocery stores to buy more food so they could prepare meals for themselves and for their families at home,” said Spence.

At the same time, demand for dairy exports out of the country declined.

Normally 15 to 20 percent of U.S. diary products are sent across the world, said Spence.

Farmers are paid for every 100 pounds of milk they produce, which makes about 11 gallons of milk.

A typical break-even price for a farmer, said Spence, is about $17 dollars for every hundredweight.

The coronavirus is causing farmers to get around $10.

“It’s easy to forget because most of us don’t live in an agriculture or rural community,” said Spence.

But without the rural community, the future face of dairy and food changes.

“There’s a lot of love and a lot of hard work that goes into the food,” said Spence. “Not just dairy foods, but all foods that you find in a grocery store.”

One of the things that can help dairy farmers during the pandemic is consistent purchases — buying milk, cheese and butter regularly to help even out the supply with the demand.