Tallahassee, Fla. – With the COVID-19 pandemic causing market challenges for agriculture producers, Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) are working to support Florida’s dairy farmers and processors.
“We’re doing everything we can to support Florida’s dairy farmers and processors during this unprecedented challenge,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “With decreases in foodservice demand, we’re asking retailers to end consumer milk purchase limits, we’re working with federal and state agencies to increase their purchases of Florida milk, and we’re working hard to help our dairy producers move their products to market.”
“Our dairy farmers and processors need our support now more than ever, and we’re working to provide them solutions,” said Zachary Conlin, Bureau Chief of Dairy Industry for FDACS. “From connecting processors with cold storage providers and finding new ways to get milk to schools and consumers, we’re trying every day to help Florida’s dairy producers weather the storm.”
Ending Purchase Limits: Commissioner Fried has spoken with major retailers including Publix, Walmart, and Whole Foods, and asked them to end purchase limits on milk, allowing consumers to purchase as much as necessary. With reports of dairy processors dumping excess milk that cannot be moved to market quickly enough, removing purchase limits is a common-sense step for both retailers and consumers.
Milk Storage & Transport: FDACS staff, including the Bureau of Dairy Industry, are working to find solutions for cold storage and transportation of surplus milk. This includes connecting milk processors with cold storage facilities, and working with organizations like the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to potentially transport milk to schools and other areas of need.
Stimulus Funding: Commissioner Fried and FDACS staff are working with members of Congress to request that the USDA quickly establish relief programs to distribute the $9.5 billion in direct financial assistance provided in the CARES Act stimulus package. This will support agricultural producers, including dairy producers, impacted by COVID-19.
Federal & State Purchases: Commissioner Fried and FDACS staff have communicated with the USDA, Secretary Sonny Perdue, and state agencies to increase federal purchases of Florida milk products, as well as state agency purchases. Milk processors should consider registering as vendors on My Florida Marketplace to facilitate state agency purposes.
Florida Farm to You List: Yesterday, FDACS launched the Florida Farm To You commodities list, connecting producers of Florida-grown products with buyers, food banks, and consumers. Florida products, including fully processed, pasteurized milk, can be submitted to the list through the online form or via email at FLFarmToYou@FDACS.gov.
Federal Support: FDACS has shared with dairy producers that today, the USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced it will not penalize processors for dumping milk, and will extend milk inspection deadlines, waive inspection requirements, and allow alternative methods of crop insurance transactions.
Dairy processors with questions about resources or how FDACS is supporting the dairy community can contact the FDACS Regional Director for their area.