(WQOW) - As Dairy Month comes to a close, the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse for dairy farmers and producers across Wisconsin, who have already been dealing with growing financial challenges.
More than 300 dairy farms have shut down so far in 2020 and the industry has faced record bankruptcies for several years in a row.
Tuesday night, several state agriculture leaders sat down with Rep. Ron Kind to discuss the challenges they are facing. The roundtable discussion was hosted by Opportunity Wisconsin.
Kind said it's hard for family farms to compete with large scale farms, and dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd said low, volatile dairy prices and overproduction are among the ongoing issues within the industry.
"We base the whole food system on some sort of race to the bottom," said Lloyd. "Let's use the COVID crisis to go back down to the bottom and rebuild it the right way, because what's happening right now, even before COVID, is not working. It's not working for family farmers. It's not working for communities."
Another lifelong dairy farmer said he had to retire because he could no longer make ends meet. Meanwhile, Anna Landmark of Landmark Creamery said she sold one third less cheese than this time last year due to the pandemic.
"'It's worrisome," said Landmark. "The longer this goes, the more kind of smaller, medium size cheese plants you're gonna see folding because they're just not going to be able to ride it out longer."
With no end to the pandemic in sight, Landmark worries funds may begin to run out by fall.
All of the dairy producers in the discussion with Kind stressed there needs to be significant changes in the industry to keep it afloat.
In response, Kind said it is important to ensure small businesses and families qualify for funding.