Farms Caught in Canadian Trade Dispute Find Buyers for Their Milk

Just days before they might have had to close, most of the Wisconsin dairy farms caught up in a trade dispute with Canada have found buyers for their milk, enabling them to stay in business. At risk had been some 58 farms ranging in size from 80 to 3,000 cows, including many in Dodge and Jefferson counties and others near Fond du Lac and Sheboygan.

Grassland Dairy Products of Greenwood said it would stop buying from the farms effective this Monday because it lost millions of dollars when Canada changed its milk-buying practices to favor Canadian farmers at the expense of U.S. milk producers.

On Thursday, though, dairy farmers close to the situation said nearly all of the farms that lost their contracts with Grassland now appear likely to have new milk buyers by Monday, even if the agreements are short term.

Some of the new contracts have come from Mullins Cheese of Mosinee, Rolling Hills and the cooperative Dairy Farmers of America. State officials would not confirm the positive turn of events Thursday, although they said earlier that the situation was changing “hour by hour” and they were hopeful it would be resolved by the end of the week.

The displaced milk is estimated at 1 million pounds, or about 116,000 gallons, a day. That’s milk that farmers otherwise would have had to dump, because cows have to be milked two or three times a day whether or not there’s a buyer for the product.

Still, a few of the displaced farms probably won’t find buyers before Monday. The Farm Center at the state Agriculture Department has a “situation room” where staff members are talking with dairy plant owners, trying to connect them with the remaining farms.

Canada has said it’s not to blame for the crisis; it faults American farmers for producing too much milk in a global marketplace flooded with it. But U.S. authorities, including Trump, have said the Canadian dairy system is choking off sales of Wisconsin and New York milk in Canada. “We need to get at the root of the problem,” said Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation in Washington, D.C. “There are long-term ramifications that aren’t as visible as a few dozen farms all of a sudden losing their markets. The longer-term impact will affect a much larger number of America’s dairy farmers from coast to coast.”