The Northeast has disposed of 166 million pounds of milk since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, by far the most of any region served by a federal milk marketing order.
Federal Order 1, which covers parts of the Mid-Atlantic and New England, accounted for 36% of the nation’s milk sent to “other uses” between March and May, USDA data show.
The category includes milk that is dumped at the farm or the plant, fed to animals, or lost for reasons beyond the handler’s control.
This milk is assigned to the month’s lowest class price, typically Class III or IV.
Most of the dumping came in April, when the Northeast diverted 131 million pounds, or more than 5% of production. Before the pandemic, the region sent on average about 0.6% to other uses.
Only Florida saw a higher percentage of its milk dumped in April, 14%, though its production was much smaller than the Northeast’s.
Nationwide, 2.6% of April milk production went to other uses, about four times higher than any other month in the past five years.
Almost 460 million pounds of milk have been dumped nationwide since March, the month the coronavirus was declared a pandemic.
The sudden oversupply of milk was caused by the closure of foodservice businesses and problems shifting milk to the retail supply chain.
Many cooperatives responded with policies encouraging farmers to cut production.
Though April was a grim moment for the dairy industry, May offered some good news. Last month’s numbers for other-uses milk fell back to average, at one-quarter of a percent of U.S. production.