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Got milk? If you ask America’s dairy farmers, the answer is a resounding “yes,” and that’s a problem.
An enormous milk glut is has prompted dairy farmers to dump 43 million gallons of milk, the Wall Street Journal said. There isn’t enough spare capacity on trucks to haul the milk to processing facilities, and even when there is, the farmers can’t afford to pay, since the oversupply of milk is putting a damper on how much they can sell it for. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dairy farmers’ earnings have tanked, falling by some 35% over the past two years.
Dairy farmers’ problems are two-fold: overproduction and declining interest in the beverages as a whole. After dairy prices spiked in 2014, farmers ramped up production, helped out by falling prices for commodities like corn and soybeans that are used as animal feed. What’s more, Americans just aren’t as into milk as they used to be: Whole milk is viewed warily by people trying to monitor their saturated fat intake, and some producers report that even skim milk sales are falling. In the meantime, dairy-free alternatives like almond milk and coconut milk have been gaining ground.
While dairy milk is falling out of fashion, Americans are ingesting more butter and cheese — about a pound per person more than last year, the Journal said, citing U.S.D.A. stats. So dairy producers are trying to sop up the milk glut by cramming more cheese and butter into fast-food menu items and school cafeteria dishes, the Journal said.
The U.S.D.A. is trying to help out farmers and shore up the market by purchasing more dairy products. Yesterday, the agency announced it would buy $20 million worth of cheddar cheese from producers, on top of another $20 million purchase of cheddar back in August. (The U.S.D.A. funnels all this cheese to places like food pantries.)