First Farmers Had to Dump Milk, Now They Face COVID-19 Surcharge
First farmer's faced dumping milk. Now they're facing a COVID-19 surcharge.
Stacey Hadlock Law, who runs a dairy farm in Sherburne, was lucky. She didn't have to dump milk since most of hers goes to Chobani. But her Dairy Farmers of America bill had a COVID cost of almost $2,000. "Yep, farmers are being charged for COVID. Our milk check had $1,896.61 taken out."
Lisle farmer Anne Lee had an $800 COVID-19 deduction for April. "We had three tankers that got dumped in our pit and after they dumped them in our pit they pulled up to our barn and loaded our milk, so I know our milk got dumped. But we personally didn't have to dump it down the drain. We'll still get paid for our milk but at the same time it's like we're being penalized because now we have this surcharge on our milk checks."
Wendy Croniser, a farmer in Boonville, says she hasn't seen a COVID cost yet but doesn't ship to Dairy Farmers of America. "We are Agri-Mark farmers and ship to Cabot and McCadam plants, but our co-op usually follows the leader."
It’s so depressing and sad that we're getting punished for something we have no control over," says Bridget Van Pelt, a farmer in New Berlin. "I ask myself if it's really worth it everyday I walk in the barn."
Farmers have been struggling for years but Terri DiNitto, a Marcy farmer says she can't remember a time it's been this bad this fast. "After COVID we lost about $6 per hundred, taking a $10,000 loss in a month."
Farmers are part of a co-op, like Ag-Mark or DFA. They are the ones who pay for the milk. Co-ops were forced to dump milk during the COVID-19 pandemic and DiNitto says the COVID surcharge farmers are seeing is like insurance, or coverage for that loss. "It's a hard thing to explain when we don't understand it ourselves."
Kristen Coady, senior vice president, corporate affairs at Dairy Farmers of America says the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for everyone, including increased costs of marketing milk. "To provide transparency and track expenses related to COVID-19, we added a line item to April milk checks denoting the specific milk marketing costs associated with the pandemic. This line item is not an additional expense for members, rather it is an accounting of milk marketing costs directly related to the coronavirus. By tracking these costs, we have been able to provide policymakers with data on the actual
financial impact of COVID-19 for our dairy farmers. This has been critical in helping develop responsive assistance programs like the recently announced U.S. Department of Agriculture Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)."
The Coronavirus Federal Aid Package includes $48.9 billion for USDA agencies and the Food and Drug Administration to continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Another $9.5 billion is set for assistance to agriculture producers along with a $14 billion replenishment to the Commodity Credit Corporation.
Farmers aren't the only ones affected financially by the coronavirus. Many businesses and restaurants have started charging a COVID-19 fee to make up for lost revenue during the shutdown and extra procedures and equipment needed to reopen. "But has anyone else had money taken from their paycheck," asked Law.
The dairy industry continues to struggle with more and more families losing their farms. If something isn't done to help farmers in our country, who will eventually be providing our food? "We are the forgotten 2% in America and shrinking," says DiNitto.