Farmers forced to dump milk; processing plants full

Posted at 9:17 PM, May 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-31 21:17:15-04

LITCHFIELD, Mich. -- Milk processors are a capacity, so fresh cow's milk is being poured into state approved disposal site and the scene is being repeated more places than just Hillsdale County.

Scott Ferry, owner of Ferry Farms in Litchfield, Mich., said the overproduction is the result of milk production rising faster than planned.

"Our family, our employees and our cows work so hard every single day, 365 days a year," said Ferry, "and to make a decision to do this, the picture that you saw (of milk being dumped) is one of the hardest things that we have ever had to do."

Ferry isn't pointing an fingers. Instead, he is the situation as a "perfect storm," with great conditions for the cows and milk production up seven percent over last year.

"With milk production being up, plus Michigan is a phenomenal place to milk cows because we've got great weather, we've got great season, changing seasons, and we had access to clean fresh water," said Ferry. He also credited healthy cows and hard-working farmers working around the clock.

Milk processing plants are operating at 20 percent over capacity.

It's not just an issue in Michigan. Ferry said that dumping of cow's milk is also happening throughout the eastern United States.

Milk products from Ferry's farm travel as far away as China. In order to limit the amount of waste, he's considering all his options, including shipping the milk out of state to be processed.

"We have to move milk outside the borders of our own state," said Ferry. "Exporting milk is extremely important in our industry, not only outside of our state, but outside of our country."

Dumping out unpasteurized milk isn't exactly new. Ferry said that his great grandfather also had to dump out what he couldn't sell to the local creamery all the way back in 1906.

"There are fewer and fewer farmers every single day, but we have a lot of mouths to feed and a growing population," said Ferry.

As for a solution, Ferry is open to waiting to see how milk processing companies respond to the issue so the dumping doesn't have to continue.

He hopes that "every family in Michigan will maybe take a minute and buy an extra gallon of milk this week or eat a little bit more cheese or butter, yogurt," said Ferry.

Ferry also said that with school letting out in the next week, that means fewer milk orders for millions of students across the country, which will also increase supply.

There is good news for the consumer, however: greater supply means lower prices, Ferry said.