Milk Co-ops, Plants Jockey to Process in Storm Aftermath

11/3/2012 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

Normally when a storm hits, the challenge is on the farm side — electricity loss, impassable roads, mud, snow and flooding. However, with superstorm Sandy most of the farms in the Mid-Atlantic got a pass.

The impact was felt indirectly as milk processing plants in New Jersey took the hit from Hurricane Sandy on Monday and Tuesday.

Dick States, an area supervisor with Dairy Marketing Services, was on the phones with truck drivers trying to offload milk on Tuesday.

That afternoon, his drivers were still sitting at the Readington Farms plant in New Jersey. The plant was without power, and States was making calls to farmers near the plant to see what food places were open, so he could feed the drivers, who had been at the plant first thing in the morning.

More than 1 billion pounds of Pennsylvania milk heads to New Jersey annually, according to the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board.

“It is a mess. Farmland (Dairies) is shut down, Hershey is shut down, not sure what else,” he said. At Readington, they were setting up a generator. States said this turmoil was just in dealing with Monday’s milk not Tuesday’s pickups.

States oversees 40 farms in New Jersey as well as 40 in Pennsylvania. States had not heard much from his New Jersey ones yet. In advance of the storm, the drivers worked to pick up farmers at risk for delays so they would have extra space in their bulk tanks.

Since milk is picked up cold, it can be stored safely in milk trucks for 24 hours.

For his Pennsylvania dairies, the only hang-up might have been his independent farmers who were shipping to the Readington plant. Otherwise, it was business as usual.

Gib Martin of Mount Joy Farmers Cooperative was also busy making delivery changes as New Jersey dairy plants dealt with the storm.

Trucks set for New Jersey were rerouted to the Lehigh Valley Dairies plant in Lansdale and others to Turkey Hill plant in Lancaster County on Monday and Tuesday.

The Dairy Farmers of America plant in Reading was back online and expected to be unloading milk through Tuesday night.

“We had only one issue with one farm” getting a generator working, Martin said. “Other than that, guys did not lose power” at the farm.

If anything, Martin said, the drivers were tired, but he expected by Wednesday they would be back to normal.

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