Coronavirus outbreak could force more California dairy farms out of business

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The pandemic has hit some in the food industry hard.

Restaurants normally need regular shipments of milk and dairy products but that's not the case right now.

Some dairy operators worry this latest crisis could cause the industry to lose even more farms.

Dairies are in the middle of their "spring flush," a time when milk production hits its peak.

But the demand for many dairy products, like butter, has dipped due to the COVID-19 restrictions faced by many restaurants and schools.

Some of California's dairy products are being moved into warehouses to be stored.

"Powder and butter is mostly what California dairies processes into, as well as cheese," says Riverdale dairy operator Donny Rollin.

Rollin says he hasn't heard of any local dairies having to dump milk shipments because the market has dried up.

But another dairy operator, Arlin Van Groningen, says the industry is also being hampered by transportation issues.

"There's not enough truck drivers and shelf stockers," says Groningen.

Rollin says the price of class III milk - used for cheese and whey - plummeted in the last few months from $20 per hundredweight to under $12 - a price he hasn't seen since 2009.

"We're definitely at a cost of production coming forward in the next couple of the months that will definitely force lots of dairies out."

Dairy operators like Rollin urge consumers to keep buying California dairy products so local farms can keep churning out product.

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