Ag Chat with Scott Schultz- April 6

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- An area dairy cooperative is offering an incentive program for its members to leave dairy farming, along with giving notification that the current milk-market situation might require members to dump milk. Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery joins many dairy processing companies that have notified patrons that milk-dumping could be possible because of coronavirus-related market issues; some milk dumping already has been occurring around the state. Cooperative leaders on April 1 sent a letter to members telling them that dairy markets and customers' cancellations for the co-op's products have resulted in the notification, which includes a buy-out program for members willing to leave dairy farming. It also says the cooperative's board has approved an incentive program for members to quit dairy farming by offering payments of full equity for 2010 to 2019. The incentive program's rules include: It took effect April 2; the program only is available for reducing the cooperative's first 100,000 pounds of milk per day; the equity payout will be 100 percent through 2019; participating members must not sell their cows to another cooperative member; proof of where the participating members' cows went must be made to the co-op's board; participants' cows must be sold by April 15; participants will not be allowed to again ship milk to the cooperative without the co-op board's approval; and the cooperative's manager must approve a member's participation. The letter says one customer during the past month cancelled 15 loads of the co-op's products; during the past week another customer cancelled eight loads of milk per day, creating a backlog of milk at the co-op's facilities.

Dairy farm / Photo: Pixabay / (Source: MGN)

A coalition of Wisconsin agriculture groups has sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, asking for immediate government relief for problems farmers are facing because of the coronavirus outbreak. Wisconsin agriculture secretary-appointee Randy Romanski also has sent a letter to the USDA to ask for federal purchases of surplus food commodities and that the federal Dairy Margin Coverage enrollment be re-opened. John Umhoefer of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers' Association - one of the organizations in the coalition - said last week during a media conference call that farm organizations, processors and the state are working to keep dairy products available despite what he described as an unprecedented disruption to the dairy industry.

State agriculture secretary-appointee Randy Romanski also has said some farmers are eligible for the federal Payroll Protection Program, a small-business loan program the federal government opened on Friday. The program is designed to provide small business with loans to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs, including benefits. It can be used to pay interest on business mortgages, rent and utilities.