According to the Dairy Farmers of America, the demand for dairy has decreased about 12 to 15 percent across the United States. Dairy products are no longer be sold at the same levels in restaurants and schools because of the pandemic. To make sure food isn’t going to waste, new partnerships are starting to arise.
Michael Deangelis from New England Diary says, “We are working with connections between processors who are making and packaging the fluid milk and bottling it. And food banks. I know, also in Vermont specifically, the Agency of Agriculture has helped to pull together partners and really looking at those kinds of solutions.”
According to Deangelis, food banks have a strong demand for milk and there are conversations happening throughout the industry to help the foodbanks.
“Food banks are one of the big areas people have really been focusing on because the need is so great. I think right now a lot of farmers are focusing on’ how do I continue to farm, continue to produce a quality product?’ But also looking at how to cut costs” said Deangelis.
Despite struggles, dairy farmers are creating new strategies to deliver their products. Bread and butter farm in Shelburne, started selling its products online. Also, home delivery services have started up again to help customers adhere to social distancing.
Deangelis said, “So that definitely has stepped up across the region, where those who were doing home delivery are doing a lot more than they were or those who have been taking a break got back in to it.”
If you are not already set up to sell directly to customers, it might not be that easy.
“It’s very hard to transition, if you haven’t bottled or processed yourself, to do it. That’s a very challenging kind of thing, to completely change your model.”
A lot of dairy farmers belong to co-ops like, Dairy Farmers of America. Those co-ops work hard to find people who need milk. The farmers rely heavily on these partnerships to get their products sold.
According to Deangelis, there is talk at the national level with pizza chains on ways to use more cheese. This would help to move more milk.
With farmers markets starting back up on May 1st it might alleviate some of the waste. Also, New England dairy is working closely with schools to get them equipment they need to offer milk with their to-go meals.