Dairy farmers adjust to dip in demand after schools, restaurants shut down

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — California is the nation’s largest milk producer but with the coronavirus pandemic impacting agriculture across the country, the price and supply of dairy products, including milk, eggs and cheese, is being hit hard.

Bruce Blodgett with the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau told FOX40 Tuesday that despite the number of people buying up milk and other dairy products in stores, it’s not enough to offset the loss of sales from school and restaurant closures.

“You’ve lost a big marketplace in terms of food service, restaurants, bakeries, you name it,” explains Blodgett. “You don’t just replace your schools, your in-school meals. You don’t just replace your restaurant industry.”

According to Blodgett, without restaurants and schools, there’s nowhere for all that milk to go, so dairies are having trouble getting their product to market. 

“It’s tough to make that transition from a company that was based on restaurant sales to a company that is based on selling in the grocery store,” said Blodgett.

Blodgett said that problem is forcing some dairy processors in other states to ask farmers to dump thousands of gallons of milk.

A fate, Blodgett told FOX40, San Joaquin County has been able to avoid for now. 

“So far we’ve been okay and that’s what we want to stay in,” said Blodgett.

But when it to comes to eggs, retailers are scrambling to keep up with demand, sending prices soaring for grocers. 

“When you just don’t have the supply, you try to do whatever you can to bring it in and sometimes higher prices but bottom line is, you can’t make chickens have more eggs,” said Blodgett.

If the dairy industry continues to take a hit it won’t just mean less revenue for the county it could mean some farms get put out to pasture for good, according to Blodgett.

“Time will tell if we end up losing some real good dairy farmers and some real good poultry operations. Hopefully not,” said Blodgett.

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