GALT (CBS13) — Some dairy producers are being asked to dump their milk because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now industry leaders are doing what they can to save the $20 billion industry that keeps more than 180,000 people employed.
"We are out here still doing our job, still caring for these cows 24/7 like we always do," said Galt dairyman Arlin Van Groningen.
He is still open for business but says it's hardly business as usual.
"In other parts of the country, as well as California, there are people being asked to dump milk," Van Groningen said.
He says businesses and schools closed due to the coronavirus outbreak are impacting the supply chain.
Van Groningen is worried processors will soon be asking him to do dump his milk as well.
"In California, we are really set up to deliver milk to restaurants and schools and with this change, it got flipped on its head. Now we have got to deliver more milk to supermarkets," he said.
This creates logistical and packaging problems and its compounded by labor shortages at trucking companies. That retail stream of dairy products is further being bottle-necked by limits per customer that were put in place to prevent hoarding.
"It sends the wrong demand signal. It tells processors there's not a huge demand for grocery store-level products, and in fact, there is. That's because people are heeding stay-at-home orders," said Anja Raudabaugh.
Raudabaugh heads up Western United Dairies, a lobbying organization pushing for retailers to lift those limits on dairy because it leads to the product being wasted or productivity diminished.
For Van Groningen, that's important. He milks 1,300 Holstein cows, producing more than 13,000 gallons of milk a day.
"We cannot force them to produce less milk, that's the dairy man's struggle," he said.
He says herd health is the key to economic health in terms of the long-term future of his business. Van Groningen has 14 full-time employees and knows their families are counting on him.
"We need to continue at 100% capacity. If asked to dump milk, we will be forced to lay people off," he said.
The dairy industry is asking people to buy local dairy as much as they can, but that doesn't mean you can buy straight from the farm. It is illegal because milk must be pasteurized first.
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