PORT JEFFERSON – Randy Sailor hasn’t dumped milk like some other dairy farmers across the United States, but he has been forced to sell milk at or even below the cost of producing it.
Sailor, who owns Dell Delight Farms near Port Jefferson, said the industry already is suffering and could see dairy prices drop more in the next 30 to 90 days.
“This is going to hit us, and it’s going to hit a lot of us hard,” he said.
Like many of the problems the world is confronting, the issues in the dairy industry have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure of schools and dine-in restaurants has decreased demand from those key sectors and disrupted supply chains.
“That type of milk, when it was shut off, it just caused a major glut of milk,” Sailor said.
Demand for dairy products from individual consumers, who are spending more time at home because of stay-at-home orders, has increased. That led some stores to limit their customers’ dairy purchases, a move that has been opposed by the American Dairy Association.
“We received many reports of stores limiting milk purchases,” said Jenny Hubble, senior vice president of communications for American Dairy Association Mideast. “Armed with this information, ADA Mideast staff are working with Ohio’s dairy processors, their sales team and the Ohio Grocers Association to assure retailers there is a steady supply of milk to meet their increased needs during this time.”
Kroger, Walmart, Sparkle, Discount Drug Mart and Giant Eagle all informed the American Dairy Association that their stores would remove limits on milk purchases. The association also initiated conversations with other retailers including Meijer and Aldi to end limits on milk purchases.
“I am happy to report that the messages we were receiving have slowed down, and we are now receiving messages from consumers indicating that milk purchases limits have been removed from their store,” Hubble said.
Restrictions on purchases being lifted is welcome news to farmers like Sailor, but he is concerned about the issues facing the dairy industry, which still is recovering from tough times in recent years.
“We got through three of the roughest years dairy farmers have ever had,” he said.
Sailor figures he can weather the current challenges farmers are confronting easier than most, in part thanks to the number of years he’s been in the business.
“I’ve been doing this 40-some years,” he said. “My overhead isn’t nearly as much as some of the young boys who are just starting out.”
Another factor working in Sailor’s favor is that he’s a member of the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative. The co-op members share risks and rewards, alleviating some pressure caused by downturns in the market.
“We all can get a little bit of that profit, but we all take a hit on our price,” Sailor said.
Sailor is hopeful that as plants adjust to shifts in demand and stores eliminate limits on milk, the dairy industry will see its circumstances improve.
“We’re all going to get through this eventually,” he said.
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