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Issues Of The Environment: COVID-19 Brings Major Disruptions To Food Production And Supply

Apr 29, 2020

Joe Diglio, President/CEO of the Michigan Milk Producers Association.
Credit Michigan Milk Producers Association / mimilk.com

Food production has been seriously disrupted to the coronavirus pandemic.  It has forced producers, including dairy farmers, to dispose of more of their supplies, which has led to more food waste.  Joe Diglio, president/CEO of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, has a conversation with WEMU's David Fair about how the problems are being addressed in this week's "Issues of the Environment."


Overview

  • Farmers across the United States are lamenting the need to dispose of billions of tons of fresh food on their farms and in their fields, due to changes to the normal food distribution system because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
  • The closure of schools, restaurants, college cafeterias, hotels, and businesses has left many farmers with products they simply cannot sell before they go bad. 
  • Dairy farmers have been especially hard hit because cows require milking multiple times each day, regardless of whether a buyer exists.  The nation’s largest dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are dumping as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day.
  • The widespread destruction of fresh food — at a time when many Americans are hurting financially and millions are suddenly out of work — is an especially dystopian turn of events, even by the standards of a global pandemic.  It reflects the profound economic uncertainty wrought by the virus and how difficult it has been for huge sectors of the economy, like agriculture, to adjust to such a sudden change in how they must operate.
  • Joe Diglio, President and CEO at Michigan Milk Producers Association, said dairy farms in Michigan have been struggling for at least the past five years, but this pandemic is new territory.  He said while many farms are having to dump their milk supply, the association is doing its best to donate as much product as possible.  “We’ve had a process in place since early 2015, and recently we’ve committed to 2,020 pounds of milk a day or 234 gallons a day to the Food Bank of Michigan,” Diglio said.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu