Just as national headlines were warning of problems in the dairy industry, Erath County producers are also feeling the pinch.
The destructive economic chain reaction that COVID-19 restrictions have caused is hitting dairy industry, and that means trouble for the 50-plus producers in Erath County.
Dublin’s Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen, said that Texas currently ranks as the nation’s fifth-largest dairy producer. The total milk production from three counties — Erath, Wise and Hopkins — accounts for 30 percent of the milk products available each year in Texas.
But with schools and some restaurants closed because of the coronavirus, those outlets for milk and other dairy products is temporarily blocked. Even though the demand at the retail store level appears to remain steady, some grocery outlets are limiting sales in the manner they have done with other unrelated products.
As a result, producers across the nation are having to dump milk. Turley said that Erath County dairy producers, likewise, are finding that things are backing up.
“We’re effected. Texas is no different,” Turley said. “We have a huge amount of milk that doesn’t have a home now. We’re one of those industries that never really stops. Our producers
are doing the same things — producing good, wholesome products.”
Another big part of the downtown has been because exports have been curtailed, Turley said.
“Roughly 15 percent of our dairy products were exported. That has stopped,” Turley said. “The dairy industry is definitely reeling. The industry is feeling it quite hard. It’s affecting everybody.”
Turley said that the predicted prices for dairy products are slumping.
“Our producers are having a dark forecast, so they are making hard decisions,” he said. “The forecasted price is below the cost of production for May and June. And it’s expected to be down the rest of the year.”
Hurley said he is hopeful that the dairy industry will be able to receive some assistance.
An April 6 article posted online by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) states that it has been working on that for the past six weeks. An overview, titled Milk Crisis Plan for USDA, is being presented to Congressional Ag Committee leaders and others in Washington.
“As the impact deepens across our economy, it has become clear that the federal government must go above and beyond traditional programs and solutions to bring balance and certainty to the dairy industry in the months ahead,” the IDFA article states. “Through the CARES Act, Congress has deployed substantial financial resources to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin to address dairy’s unique plight.”
The Milk Crisis Plan states, “We estimate the supply exceeds demand by at least 10 percent — a gap that could widen as supply increases to its seasonal peak and as ‘shelter in place’ conditions endure.”
Part two on this subject in Wednesday’s edition of the E-T will spotlight local dairy producers with their perspective on the problems they are facing.