California dairy producers facing distribution challenges amidst COVID19 pandemic, encouraging purchase of locally sourced products

Today's news conference was broadcasted via social media. |  

Among every aspect of life affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the dairy producers in California and across the county are facing distribution problems even though they have ample supplies. In an effort to help California dairy producers, a press conference was held this morning in Galt to encourage consumers to purchase locally-sourced products.

The press conference, which was held at the New Hope Family Dairy and broadcast via social media, included California Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D - Elk Grove), Arlin Van Groningen, owner of the dairy, and Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairies.

As has been reported nationally, while milk supplies are unchanged, because of the closures of restaurants and schools, demand has shrunk. With lower demand, some dairy operators could be forced to dump product.

“Unlike other businesses, dairy farms, most of which are family-owned, can't shut down production because their cows need to be taken care of and fed daily,” Van Groningen, said. “The result is an oversupply of milk that is used in cheese, butter, and other goods that provide affordable and safe nutrition.”

The result is an overabundance of supply, which could be offset if Californians stepped up their purchases of dairy products and continued to patronize restaurants and support school lunch programs. The dairy industry is also working with food banks in need of nutritional food products to avoid dumping milk.

Ironically, even though supplies are abundant, some grocery stores are limiting the purchase of milk and other dairy products. Part of the problem is attributed to a shortage of truck drivers who play a vital role in the distribution chain. 

Cooper, whose 9th California Assembly District includes Galt, noted the dairy industry is part of a $20 billion industry that employs 180,000 workers and even though it is a large business segment, margins for dairy operators are thin. To help local operators, Cooper is encouraging consumers to buy locally sourced products that include the Real California Milk seal (see below), which indicates the majority of the product comes from a dairy within 50 miles.  

“The crisis from the economic downturn is most acute for small businesses like New Hope Dairy that already have thin margins and small cash reserves," Cooper said. "It’s always vital that we ‘buy local,’ but it is especially important during this unprecedented time. We need to help keep our local farmers strong so they can ride out this crisis.”

Speaking on behalf of the Western United Dairies, Raudabaugh said that prior to the pandemic, 55 percent of food in the U.S. was consumed outside the home, including 62 percent of butter sold in the state that usually was consumed at restaurants. 

“The shuttering of restaurants is forcing processors to try to channel products to other markets, which is a major logistical hurdle," Raudabaugh said. "That’s why we need consumers to continue to purchase California-made safe and affordable dairy products.”

Cooper also said that he is leading state legislative efforts to help local farmers in Sacramento and to help small businesses apply for federal relief programs. 












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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

I'm confident Farmer Jim will find some money for the dairies, especially during an election year!

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