Dairy farmers dealing with a drop in demand due to COVID-19

Dairy farmers
Posted at 4:51 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 20:04:59-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — According to the California Farm Bureau Federation, dairy farmers grapple with drop in demand of their products. Milk sales and dairy products to restaurants, schools and other institutions have declined rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving dairy farmers with excess milk supplies.

Farmers are being asked to slow production, find alternative buyers and, in some cases, discard milk. The drop in demand comes at the "worst time," farmers say, as warmer spring weather encourages cows to produce more.

While dairy farmers struggle with a volatile market, farmers are "rolling the dice" as they plant crops such as tomatoes. Demand for canned tomato products has risen during the pandemic, but sales to restaurants and other food-service customers have dropped. Farmers say they're maintaining their planting plans for processing tomatoes that will be harvested this summer, and that they have also adjusted operations to accommodate new employee safety measures during the pandemic.

In the labs, scientists are working on adding more nutrients to lettuce. As one of the most consumed fresh vegetables, lettuce plays an important role in American diets--and researchers say increasing nutrients in lettuce could improve health without asking people to change their dietary habits. At a Future of Lettuce Symposium, California scientists described progress in breeding lettuce higher in nutrients such as vitamin C, antioxidants and beta carotene, and lettuce that lasts longer after harvest.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture continue to decline, according to government data analyzed by the American Farm Bureau Federation. The AFBF analysis says agriculture accounts for less than 10% of total U.S. emissions. On a per-unit basis, methane emissions from livestock operations have declined, even as production has risen, and crop farmers have been able to grow more on fewer acres.