US milk farmers are dumping truckloads of milk in the drain - here’s why | Totally Vegan Buzz

US milk farmers are dumping truckloads of milk in the drain – here’s why

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“The industry has been sort of punched in the nose and stunned.”

 Truckloads of farm fresh milk across the Upper Midwest are being dumped in sewers indicating an ‘off balance’ in the industry.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s wastewater treatment system has been handling increased volumes of milk as the US dairy industry is producing more milk than can be processed, leaving farmers no choice but to dump the excess fluid down the drain.

Peter Hardin, ‘The Milkweed’ editor and publisher, estimated that the amount of excess milk produced each day could be enough to fill 50 trailers.

“This is a crisis. I mean, dairy is Wisconsin’s single largest agricultural endeavor,” Hardin said.

 “The industry has been sort of punched in the nose and stunned.”

What has led to reduced milk demand?

Sarah Sarbacker, communications director for Madison-based FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative added that milk demand typically slows in the summer when students are out of school.

While some milk dumping is expected at this time of the year, this year’s increase is much larger than usual because farmers have been working to increase production based on last year’s rising milk prices.

Chuck Nicholson, an agricultural economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said: “We had some really tremendous milk prices last year that gave dairy farmers a message, ‘Hey, we need more milk in the marketplace’.

“Producers are pretty good at responding to those kinds of incentives. So now we’re bringing that additional milk online compared to last year. And so that’s part of why we are seeing the issues.”

Also, 90% of the milk produced in the state of Wisconsin is made into cheese, but with the oversupply of milk, processing plants in the biggest cheese-producer state are full and cannot take in the excess milk. Moreover, some dairy processing plants have also cut back on production hours because they can’t find enough workers.

With supply exceeding demand, milk and cheese prices have declined significantly and are being sold at ‘distressed’ rates.

“The problem with that is with milk prices 40% lower than they were a year ago.  Farmers’ cash flow gets squeezed,” Hardin said.

According to him, apart from dumping milk, farmers may reduce their herds by sending cows to slaughterhouses prematurely to cut losses.

Dairy industry issues

The oversupply issue is not isolated, the dairy milk industry has been suffering a decades-long decline in popularity.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, milk consumption hit an all-time low in 2021 at about 16 gallons per person, down from about 29 gallons in 1975.

The beverage has mostly fallen out of favor with the younger generation. An April report by the New York Times showed that Generation Z (those aged between 11-26) are consuming 20% less milk than older generations.

This demographic is more inclined to consume milk alternatives like almond milk and oat milk citing the health and environmental concerns of dairy products.

Dairy consumption has been linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease and some cancers. Moreover, its production is resource-intensive, using up vast amounts of land and water. Dairy farming accounts for at least 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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