There is a glut of milk being produced in the Northeast. There’s so much that processors are dumping the product before it reaches store shelves.
Demand for fluid milk is down, but production is up slightly. But that’s enough to cause problems at processing plants. Co-ops are dumping milk.
Agrimark economist Bob Wellington says the co-op’s four plants process all the milk they can. But a few weeks ago they had to start dumping a small volume of milk. “My understanding is that some of the other coops have been dumping it for a lot longer period of time. That’s very unfortunate. The problem is it’s a combination of two things. It’s increased milk production, but not a great deal, but there’s some increased milk production. And then we have a shortage of plants, milk plants, that are willing and able to take the milk. Class 1 sales are down so the Class 1 bottlers are not willing to take additional milk. And the manufacturing plants are all full so they’re unable to take additional milk. So no matter what the price is there’s no home for that milk.”
Northeast Dairy Foods Association Executive Vice President Bruce Krupke says he has heard reports of dumping. He attributes it to high production and low demand both domestically and on the export markets. “Fluid milk consumption is down. So when that happens where are we going to send that milk? Well we can send it to a cheese plant or we can send it to a powder plant or an ice cream plant or a yoghurt plant. Certainly if you take a look at the amount of milk that’s being utilized in the plants here in New York State and in the Northeast for that matter, we’re taking in a lot more milk than we did five or six years ago. There just comes a point where we just have too much. It gets backed up and you hear these reports of some locations, mainly dairy cooperative plants, we take the cream out and it’s the skim that’s being dumped.”
Farmers are in a Catch-22. Cows must be milked every day and the fluid can’t be stored until demand increases. Whiting, Vermont’s Dream On Farm owner Mary Gill-Warren says the co-op she has to work with – DFA or Dairy Farmers of America - has been dumping milk for nearly a year. “It’s not the farmers doing it. It’s the coops. They keep saying that it’s more milk production. But you know milk basically stays pretty much the same production-wise. And if they handled it before, why can’t they handle it now? We were told at a district meeting that we attended last fall that they had too much milk and they’d been dumping it for quite some time. They had been taking money out of our milk check to do that. Right now they’re taking about $1,300 a month out of us to compensate themselves for dumping this milk. It’s something that we’ve been paying for for quite some time."
The USDA reports that May milk production was up 1.4 percent nationally. Vermont was up 1.7 percent and New York 2.6 percent over 2014.