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DUMP MILK: Coronavirus is hitting dairy farms especially hard. What about the cows?

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The global pandemic has sent a shock wave throughout agriculture. About 820 Wisconsin dairy producers called it quits in 2019, a rate of more than two per day, and the trend hasn’t slowed.

RICK BARRETT: Coronavirus is delivering a blow to Wisconsin agriculture at the worst possible time as milk prices that were poised for a rebound are once again sinking, export markets are threatened by global trade unrest, and some farms may not make it through the spring. Dairy has been hit the hardest from the loss of business from restaurants, schools and the hospitality industry. About one-third of Wisconsin dairy products, mostly cheese, are sold in the food-service trade…

Dairy farmers, whose product is especially perishable, are worried about processing plants closing or curbing production, forcing them to dump milk if there’s no other buyer… From dairy barns to grain fields, farmers have endured a long stretch of low commodity prices, partly brought on by a glut in world production. About 820 Wisconsin dairy producers called it quits in 2019 alone, a rate of more than two per day, and the trend hasn’t slowed in recent months…

“Everyone is hopeful this won’t last beyond a few weeks. But if it lingers into the summer months there is no doubt that rural America will be adversely affected and there will be fewer farmers still in business,” said Jeff Lyon, general manager of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative… The global pandemic has sent a shock wave throughout agriculture. “This is exacerbating what already had shaped up to be a challenging year,” said Michael Slattery, a Manitowoc County grain farmer and economic adviser for Wisconsin Farmers Union.

Grain farmers are hurting as plummeting demand for gasoline reduces the need for ethanol, a fuel additive made from corn. Analysts say it’s only a matter of time before ethanol plants in the Upper Midwest slash production or close. “This is crushing refineries and ethanol producers,” said Alex Breitinger, a commodities futures broker in Indiana.  SOURCE…

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