Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States, dairy farm families faced drops in milk prices by roughly 40 percent over the last six years and fluid milk sales steadily declined year over year. For decades, population increase kept overall milk consumption stable, but that was not the case over this last decade. It became evident to dairy farmers producing for the gallon jug that if conditions continued, most would go out of business. There was a glut of milk on the market. Fewer meals were being prepared at home and competition with other beverage options like bottled water, energy drinks, and alternative milk beverages were driving milk sales down.
Then COVID-19 hit and panic buying began.
Consumers filled their pantries and stocked their refrigerators. Milk was at the top of grocery lists as families began to prepare more meals at home. Panic buying led to a series of shocks in the dairy supply chain and then schools and restaurants shuttered. Grocery stores shelves became bare and milk supplies piled up in processing facilities forcing Georgia farmers to dump milk down the drain. Between March 28 and April 17, Georgia farmers dumped close to 100 tanker loads of milk, valued at $1 million.
COVID-19 has been a punch gut for the Georgia dairy industry and the financial impact of the pandemic will not be felt on the farm until June or July. Dairy markets are currently rebounding for the last half of 2020 and farmers hope that marketing conditions will stabilize and quickly recover to pre-pandemic levels.
Georgia is home to 130 dairy farm families that produce close to 1.8 billion pounds of milk each year. Farmers are eager to learn about new technologies and are seeking new risk management opportunities to better prepare for the next dairy downswing. Through everything dairy farmers have faced over the last six years, they continue to go to the milking barn every day to provide consumers with the nine essential nutrients found in every glass of milk.
How can consumers show appreciation and support for farmers & their farms?
There are so many amazing men, women, and families who make up the Georgia dairy industry – and now, more than ever, they need your help and support. Buy more milk, eat more cheese and add some cream to each cup of coffee! Milk is an inexpensive way to provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs and it tastes great!
Quick Georgia Dairy Facts
- Georgia is home to 130 dairy farmers with over 82,00 dairy cows
- Georgia ranks 22nd in milk production in the US.
- In 2019, Georgia dairies produced 205 million gallons of milk
- Georgia has 2 commercial milk processing plants located in Atlanta and Lawrenceville.
- Annually, Georgia’s dairy industry contributes $836 million to Georgia’s economy.
- The top 6 dairy counties are Macon, Sumter, Brooks, Burke, Morgan, and Putnam.
To learn more about Georgia’s dairy industry visit gamilk.org.
Farrah Newberry is the executive director of the Georgia Milk Producers, a producer-funded organization located in Watkinsville, GA. Every three years, Georgia dairy farmers vote on a one-cent per hundredweight checkoff on all milk produced in Georgia; funds are used to operate education, communication, and promotion of Georgia milk.