COVID & agriculture: ’Dairy farms have been through a nightmare'

Updated: Jul. 23, 2020 at 5:31 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - COVID-19 is being described as a nightmare by those who deal in agriculture. One farmer lost tens of thousands of dollars in the month of April alone.

A COVID-19 economy is tough. Stores were closed. There were empty seats at restaurants. Down on the farm, some are trying to survive.

“We’ve had, you know, farms close their doors. Farms lose business,” said Jefferson County Agricultural Coordinator Jay Matteson.

Farmers make money on milk. With schools closed and restaurants not serving, the demand for milk plummeted.

"Dairy farms have been through a nightmare. They've had to dump milk. They've had to cut their production by 10 to 15 percent," said Matteson.

Pat Grimshaw in Henderson knows this nightmare.

"We dumped the whole month of April. So that was almost 25,000 pounds a day," he said.

That was a big part of why Grimshaw lost $90,000 in April alone.

Grimshaw joins a large group of farmers facing trouble.

According to a survey by the New York Farm Bureau, 43 percent of farmers have lost sales during the pandemic, 37 percent are experiencing cash flow issues and almost half have reduced spending to local vendors and suppliers.

Grimshaw's business is diversified though. While the milk end isn't good, he does sell meat and those sales are higher than ever.

"Our sales for meat have really jumped. It's been huge," he said.

That's one way to weather the storm and that's key to a farmer staying in business these days.

"There's a variety of things that farms are looking at, but just like every other industry, there's a lot of unknowns that this disaster has caused," said Matteson.

Instead of dumping more milk, Grimshaw is finding ways to donate raw milk to the community. So far he has donated 1,000 gallons.

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