Editorial: Struggling Dairy Industry & COVID-19


Elizabeth Kaiser graphic

Elizabeth Kaiser graphic

A year has passed, and farmers are still fighting for their industry.

On March 25, Governor Tony Evers executed the “Safer at Home” order. As a provision of this executive order, essential businesses were allowed to remain open.

The dairy industry was labeled as an essential business, and while they were able to “stay open,” there were restrictions. According to WQOW, an Eau Claire TV station, the ebb and flow of supply and de- mand, milk prices and trade agreements have left many struggling. With these problems already in place and the ongoing global pandemic, dairy farmers have felt, in one word, disenfranchised.

Steve Strey, from Farm Bureau Eau Claire Chapter, stated, “One of the main reasons for the increase in profits is that exports are steady, given other countries have not been hit as hard by COVID-19 as they have in the U.S.”

Although the dairy farms are diminishing, we have to support whichever farms are left, big or small. I remember walking into my local grocery store and walking to the coolers to grab a gallon of milk. The store had a limit on how many gallons each family could purchase.

A few weeks later I went back into the same grocery store and there was a new sign replacing the old one that said “Support your local dairy farms.” When I saw the first sign my heart sank a little because the farmers were already struggling trying to find a factory to tank their milk to. When the new sign went up, I was relieved and saw a turnaround coming in the future.

The last time I walked into a grocery store to buy a gallon of whole milk it was under $2, and I was shocked. I cannot recall the last time it was under $2.

A year has finally passed, and farmers have made a turn for the better. Hopefully, they will continue to prosper and slowly recover from the past, putting them back on the right track again. There have been a lot of struggles shared by the dairy farming community, but with the strong and supportive industry behind us, we worked together to keep afloat. Seeing the struggle firsthand through family and friends affected me a little more than it did others.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “For the first six months of 2020, the state lost 213 dairy farms, significant but far fewer than in the first half of 2019.” As years pass, the number of farms seems to be diminishing, and COVID-19 is not the sole impact on whether or not a farm stays afloat. Rather, if they can see a comeback after a few months of the pandemic, as reflected by the price of milk.

With the reopening of restaurants, the farm milk prices have been rising again. We see a light at the end of the tunnel, and the farming community isn’t stopping until it gets there.