It’s no secret that the dairy industry has had a roller coast when it comes to milk prices. Yet, with 2020 on the horizon, things were actually looking up. According to Dwayne Faber, a Skagit County dairy farmer, “2020 was supposed to be the year where things started to turn around for the dairy industry.”

In an interview with Dillon Honcoop, Faber calls the current dairy industry circumstances “an unprecedented market.” In a month and a half, the milk price, projected to be at $18/cwt bounced down to $11.

The perfect year 2020 turned into a downfall for many dairy farms across the nation. Faber suggests this is likely because 30% of milk from US dairy farms goes to the restaurant industry. For example, 40 pound blocks of cheese are created specifically for restaurant suppliers. When restaurants closed for the pandemic, these 40 pound blocks simply had nowhere to go.

At the beginning of 2020, dairy farmers were optimistic for a change to happen in the market. The last time that the milk price was at a good spot was in 2014. As 2020 was approaching, Faber said he felt like the clouds were finally beginning to part.

However, a pandemic is not predictable. As 2020 continued and the virus worsened, closing restaurants and businesses, dairy farmers across the nation were forced to dump milk simply because there was no place to send it.

Yet, there was still hope. In the same time period that the milk price fell, it moved back up again. Despite the lack of supplier purchasing of dairy products, the number one requested item at food banks was milk. With many people unemployed at this time, food banks are serving a larger need.

While some dairy farmers in the country were forced to dump milk, dairy farmers in Washington were instead giving food banks what they needed. According to Faber, Darigold, a local cooperative, exports about 50% of their products while the other 50% is consumed here.

Since the virus became more serious Darigold committed to donating 130,000 gallons of milk to local food banks. This buy back from the food banks helped to bring the milk price back up for farmers.

As production stays steady and the milk price wavers, there’s still hope. Faber emphasizes the resilience of the dairy industry through the changes. Farmers are innovative with new ideas and quick to respond. There will always be room for dairy products, even if the markets are different than expected.

Hear the full interview to get more information here: