OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — The coronavirus crisis is proving to be devastating to dairy farmers.
At Larson Dairy Farm in Okeechobee, 2,200 cows are milked every single day, but closures caused by the virus have led to a decrease in demand.
“We closed schools, most food service industries have been closed, and there’s a lot of milk orders there that are not being fulfilled,” said Jacob Larson, owner of Larson Dairy Farm.
There’s literally too much milk with no where to go, which is forcing farmers to dump it on the ground. Their hard-earned money is going right down the drain.
“Our cooperative has dumped over 100 tanker loads of milk since April 1,” Larson said. “It breaks our heart. We’re extremely passionate. There’s milk going on the ground when we know there’s kids not getting fed every day.”
Larson is now being told to reduce his production of milk by 18 percent, leading to a loss in revenue, but he says it is nearly impossible to reduce expenses by the same percentage.
Like farmers across the country, Larson will be looking into state and federal funding to survive.
Larson Dairy Farm has weathered many storms and hurricanes. There’s been a lack in production with a loss of electricity in the past, but the storm caused by the coronavirus is different because we don’t know when it will end.
“We’ve had individual farmers going to purchase milk for food banks. Personally, I am delivering school lunches that all have milk in them in our area to kids that can’t get to the pickup sites,” said Colleen Larson, a regional dairy extension agent.
Dairy farmers are now working to minimize losses, and Larson predicts once everything is back up and running, there could be a milk shortage in the fall.
“It definitely is putting a damper on our business. The question is: can we survive it?” Larson asked.