The nation’s dairy farmers are feeling the squeeze of the pandemic, as supply chain issues are raising the cost of producing and packaging milk. Basic resources are getting expensive for dairy farmers. For some smaller farms, it’s making it hard to pay the bills.
"At the end of writing all the checks and seeing what I had to pay, I had $3 left for the week," said Carolyn Adkins, owner of Tucker Adkins Dairy in York, South Carolina.
The farm produces about 30 gallons of raw milk per day, and some of the business’s nearly 70 cows are milked every morning. But during the pandemic, buying feed for the cows hasn't been cheap.
"On average it cost us around $250 a ton, now it’s close to $350 a ton," Adkins said.
"If you are a dairy farmer anywhere in the country you are seeing increases in everything you need to produce milk," said Alan Bjerga, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation.
Bjerga says supply chain issues are making anything from fuel to milk jugs cost more.
"It’s less income into the home," Adkins said.
So if the cost of business is rising for farmers, why can’t milk prices just be raised to compensate? Bjerga says it's not that simple.
"Dairy is a perishable product, it can’t just sit there forever before it’s consumed. So there’s always that pressure to get the product out," he said.
Bjerga says the cost of milk has gone up about 1% over the past year, but consumer inflation has risen 5%.
"Dairy farmers are like many farmers, they're price takers, not price makers," Bjerga said.
He doesn’t know when, or if, milk prices could eventually rise more for consumers.
"It’ll take months. It could take a year, two years before we get the supply chain figured out," Adkins said.
Bjerga says dairy farmers in western states are dealing with another headache right now because many shipping ports are backed up and not shipping their products overseas.