Whether it’s in your coffee, cereal, dessert bowl, cheese sandwich, or straight up in a chilled glass, most Americans consume milk in some form on a pretty regular basis. But with a glut of cheap white stuff on the market, farmers have reportedly spilled some 43 million gallons of milk through just the first eight months of 2016.
According to the Wall Street Journal analysis of USDA data, that’s significantly more than farmers have dumped during this same eight-month window in any year going back to 2000.
The glut of milk in the U.S. is a result, reports the Journal, of a reaction to industry shortages in 2014, which brought about record high prices for dairy. But now the price of milk is down around 36% off that high of two years ago, and some farmers say they can’t afford to truck away their excess.
The head of the Michigan Milk Producers Association says the farmer-owned co-op had to dump some of its excess in a lagoon of manure because it couldn’t find anyone to haul it to Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the USDA this week committed to buying $20 million in surplus cheese, as farmers and the dairy industry look for other ways to sell or donate their milk, like the 83,000 gallons the Michigan co-op gave away to a food bank.
Dairy Management Inc. is effectively an industry marketing firm that spends a lot of money convincing food producers to use more milk products, and to come up with new and different ways to incorporate dairy into their foods. The organization, whose work is largely funded by a self-imposed tax on dairy producers, has previously made headlines for spending millions to convince chains like Taco Bell and Domino’s to cheese-up their menus.
According to the Journal, as a milk glut loomed on the horizon, DMI set to working its magic, getting McDonald’s to replace margarine with butter in Sept. 2015. That change alone will eat up 600 million pounds of butter a year, reports the Journal.
DMI’s $30 million investment in these sorts of products may have helped, with commercial use of cheese and butter up 4% so far this year.
Today’s news comes on the heels of a $52 million settlement with the nation’s biggest dairy farmers over a now-shuttered industry practice known as “Herd Retirement.”
That program, which was operated by a group called Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), allowed farmers to bid on selling their herds of dairy cows to CWT. The industry painted the program as a way to help with “preserving family farms” and preventing “farmers from financial ruin due to unstable economic conditions,” but plaintiffs in the lawsuit accused the dairy farmers of slaughtering cows as a protection against low dairy prices.
by Chris Morran via Consumerist