Farmers are watching their livelihood go down the drain, as many are dumping thousands of gallons of milk every day.

Grimshaw Farms in Henderson, New York milks about 300 cows. This week they've dumped 30,000 pounds of milk. "We are being told there is too much milk on the market," Grimshaw shared on Facebook. "This is very strange when we are being told many milk shelves across the country are empty. Sure hope we can remain in business after these trying times."

In New York State farmers are not allowed to sell unpasteurized milk. "We can’t find a plant to pasteurize and bottle it for human consumption," Grimshaw says.

Deborah Lawton, a farmer in Newark Valley, New York has dumped two tanks of milk in three days. "It is disheartening. I cannot begin to tell you how hopeless I feel. The stores are either limiting dairy purchases or are completely out. We will pay dearly for this as many family farms cannot operate on any less income."

Photo Credit - Deborah Lawton

So why are all these hard-working farmers watching their livelihood go down the drain? That's a question the farmers themselves want answers to.

Boonville farmer Wendi Croniser, says farmers were already struggling and the coronavirus crisis is making it worse. "With New York City being shut down, milk processing plants closing down state and schools, restaurants and bars being closed, the dairy industry is losing sales. The product can’t be processed and isn’t needed right now, therefore making all the farmers dump their paychecks down the drain. It’s so sad farmers work 7 days a week even through the coronavirus pandemic and we still don’t make enough money to the bills."

Sarah Lanchton, a dairy farmer in Rome, is frustrated. "We are not getting answers to our questions. Having spoken to family in New Jersey and being a dairy farmer myself, we are working with the American Dairy Association to get answers for us."

Lanchton has also written a letter to Anthony Brindisi, looking for answers."We may only be a very small piece the dairy industry puzzle but our hearts and souls has been in Dairy Farming for the majority of our lives," she wrote. "We are coming to you asking for help regarding this matter and if you could please be in contact with the US Department of Agriculture and/or Ag and Markets here in New York State to see what they will do to help the dairy industry."

DiNitto farm in Marcy is not dumping milk yet but Terri DiNitto says other farms in her area are. "Processors aren’t taking milk. Some have employee issues. Employees are staying home. No way to move product. A few plants are in the NYC area. Milk pricing is a complex issue normally. This is a mess even more so because of the pandemic."

Tim Laws works for a milk hauler and says they dumped four loads on Monday. "There's probably more to come. Nowhere for it all to go."

It's not just in New York either. Diehl Trucking out of Pennsylvania is dumping milk too. "After nearly 42 years of hauling milk we were told today for the first time to dump two full loads of milk," the company shared on Facebook. "The uncertainty of the world has hit the dairy industry. The lack of demand for milk and milk products and plants that process has been hit by sickness. Please keep all in your thoughts and prayers."

To avoid hoarding, a limit was placed on dairy products after the coronavirus crisis hit. The initial rush to stock up has now decreased but the American Dairy Association North East is working to help farmers. "Our team has contacted the major chains who have confirmed their corporate offices have lifted the limitations on milk," Emma Andrew-Swarthout shared on Facebook.

The USDA has received numerous inquiries and released a statement. "In response to questions from the dairy industry, USDA will be implementing allowable flexibilities for the benefit of dairy farmers and fluid milk handlers to ensure they can meet the changing consumer demand within the Federal milk marketing order program. The flexibilities will meet the changing needs of both the dairy farmer and dairy processor and manufacturing communities to ensure efficient milk movements from farm to table. USDA wants the public to feel reassured that retail outlets will have milk available."

How can you help?

If you are in your local grocery stores or convenience stores and you see empty shelves of dairy products, please take a picture and/or send an email to the American Dairy Association North East division at: dairyspot@milk4u.org or call them directly at 315.472.9143.

Photo Credit - Kathy Orth Ostrander