Local dairy farmer explains supply chain hardships

New York News

CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Governor Cuomo called it a waste: farmers dumping their milk in huge quantities because the demand just isn’t there right now.

“It is a waste,” Jessica Ziehm from Tiashoke Farm in Buskirk told News10, “it’s a heartache to watch a product that you worked so hard to make go down the drain, when there are people in need.”

However, many farmers have no choice. The cows have to be milked regardless of the status of the market, and as Ziehm from Tiashoke Farm explains, processing the milk doesn’t happen on site.

After the milk is obtained in its raw form, it leaves the farm to be tested and processed, or made into products like cheese and ice cream, then packaged, and finally, redistributed to suppliers.

“Life has not changed for us dramatically on a day-to-day operations standpoint. What has changed, though,” says Ziehm, “is the price that we’re receiving for our products.”

Dairy is a commodity that is priced based on a national system. Ziehm says with the biggest customers of dairy like schools, businesses, and industries shut down right now because of the health crisis, the whole system is thrown off kilter.

“The processing chain, the supply chain, has been unable to keep up with that,” says Ziehm.

The state thinks they’ve found a solution. While demand is down for dairy products upstate, need has shot up at food banks especially downstate, with the COVID-19 crisis having put many people out of work.

The state will be providing 25 million dollars from its public health emergency fund for food banks and providers feeling the effects of the outbreak. New York is partnering with dairy producers to buy excess milk and process it into food products to be redistributed where it’s needed.

Ziehm says this is welcome news, as she’s worked at the Regional Food Bank in Albany and says food insecurity has been a problem since before the pandemic started.

“It’ll be interesting how this all unfolds, and if we can really, truly accomplish this, and I really hope so,” says Ziehm, “because if doing so, we’ll be utilizing some of the supply we’re producing on our farm and putting it to good use.”

It’ll remain to be seen what effect the State’s new initiative will have on the struggling supply chain.

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