National milk surplus hurting Iowa dairy farmers, helping food banks

 

DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO TV) -- For the first time in years a massive milk surplus is putting a strain on Iowa dairy farmers. The problem isn't only happening in Iowa but across the country.

The Wall Street Journal reports so far this year, US dairy farmers have thrown away more than 43 million gallons of milk. However, local dairy experts say that isn’t entirely true.

“It is not happening here. It has not happened anywhere in the Midwest. The closest is Michigan.” Sue Ann Claudon.

Claudon is the Executive Director of the Iowa State Dairy Association. She says the surplus is the result of farmers producing extra milk when prices were high about two years ago. Experts say a decrease in milk exports and consumption is also to blame.

Anderson Erikson Dairy echos Claudon's statement, " At AE Dairy, we work very hard with our Iowa dairy farmers to manage our raw milk supply so dumping milk is not necessary," says Kim Peters, Director of Marketing.

Dairy farmers are losing money as a result. According to the New York Times, the price of milk is down 22 – percent. Farmers are now relying on excess milk to create a new profit.

“Our processing plants in the Midwest especially in Iowa use a lot of our milk. Probably 50 - percent of our milk in Iowa goes towards cheese production,” says Cauldon.

As cheese production increases, too much of one thing is a much-needed product for others.

“It’s not necessarily strange for us to get a donation of a large amount of surplus food but cheese is unusual,” says Danny Akwright, communications manager for the Food Bank of Iowa.

The non – profit organization is set to receive 24,000 pounds of cheese next month from the US Department of Agriculture. The donation will help feed hungry Iowans in 55 counties. The USDA also purchased enough cheese to distribute to 200 other food banks around the state and country.

“If we can get it in the hands of people who really need it and can turn it into meals for their families, that`s the best thing we can do,” says Akwright .

The Iowa State Dairy Association says it will likely take several more months until the surplus is under control.