New legislation being introduced to help dairy farmers

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The dumping of milk has become one of the images tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, as a drop in demand has hurt Wisconsin's dairy farmers and processors.

“The restaurants, and schools, and destinations that have been closed for so long and are only now reopening, so for weeks and weeks we had cheese companies that had lost an enormous portion of their sales,” says John Umhoefer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association.

Now, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin has joined Maine's Republican Senator Susan Collins and Independent Senator Angus King to introduce the Farming Support to States Act.

“What the Farming Support to States Act does is provide a new and flexible tool generally through state departments of agriculture, to deal with some of the challenges that we're seeing in agriculture that are more related to the food supply chain than they are to individual farm circumstances,” says Senator Tammy Baldwin.

The legislation looks to put money in the hands of a state's Department of Agriculture, and help them fix disrupted supply chains, as a result of COVID-19.

“It could be logistics to get the milk brought to a different processor that has more demand or it could be that you assist the processing plant with retooling so that they can produce smaller size products for food pantries,” says Baldwin.

Umhoefer says the best way would be to give that money to food pantries to purchase dairy products.

“If you can have a program that pays for that product, then the dairy dollars can flow right to the dairy farmers. Donations don't necessarily generate dollars that can pay that farmer,” he says.

But he is grateful a push is on to hopefully help those in the dairy industry - trying to make ends meet, during this unprecedented time.

“If we can localize that money and make it as simple as possible for these transactions to take place, then we get families fed and we can keep dairy farmers in business,” he says.