COVID-19 spoils demand for milk and hurts local farmers

HELENA, Ohio (WTVG) - Local farmers are feeling the pinch from COVID-19. The virus is hurting demand for milk, and that is cutting profits for local farmers.

Lyle Bursiek, who owns Twin Gate Farm in Helena, Ohio, farms 500 acres and milks 50 cows on his dairy farm.

The cows are milked twice daily, 365 days a year, but COVID-19 is cutting down the demand for milk.

"About a third of our income off the milk is gone, and they were expecting the prices of milk to be up this year. So much for that," said Bursiek.

Across the country, videos are going viral of farmers ditching milk. The reason? There is simply too much and some of the processing plants cannot keep up.

"There's not a shortage of milk. It is just a matter of logistics and getting it processed and into the right containers," said Bursiek.

Bursiek said like any factory, some of the processing plants are tooled to accommodate preparing milk for schools, in small containers, or for large restaurants or corporations, in bags and boxes. Those lines cannot be retooled overnight for gallons or half gallon jugs.

Time is of the essence with milk. From the moment it leaves the cow hits the parlor lines, it has to be bottled within 72 hours. That's why you are seeing farmers being forced to pump and dump.

Meanwhile, Bursiek said if a load is in jeopardy of being dumped, the co-op, Dairy Farmers of America, tries to find someone to cover the processing fee to push it through so it can be donated to a food bank or other charity, but it must be processed first. It is illegal to sell unpasteurized milk in the state of Ohio.