Letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue

Apr 10, 2020

Arizona Dairy Farmers Reach to USDA for Support to Survive COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Arizona’s only dairy cooperative, United Dairymen of Arizona urged USDA to support the Proposed IDFA/NMPF Milk Crisis Plan.
  • The plan sets into motion much-needed assistance for the dairy industry and the thousands of people whose livelihoods are directly or indirectly impacted by our industry.
  • Assistance to help balance the milk market, purchase of dairy products for food banks, and a forgivable loan program similar to the current SBA loans are all included in the overall plan to help farmers.
  • The dairy market crash, related to the COVID-19 pandemic, is the quickest moving and most severe decline that the cooperative has seen in their 60 year history.
  • “The dairy industry requires a response that is robust, broad and strategic enough to lift all boats in a way that prevents long-term market impacts, preserves the supply chain so the industry remains intact once the COVID-19 crisis passes, and ensures dairy remains a vital part of feeding a growing number of food insecure Americans.” According Michael Dykes, DVM CEO of International Dairy Foods Association.
  • Without support from the USDA, many of Arizona’s third and fourth generation farm families will not make it through the next 90 days.


Read the full letter below:

Dear Secretary Perdue,

As Arizona’s only dairy cooperative, United Dairymen of Arizona urges you to support the Proposed IDFA/NMPF Milk Crisis Plan. The plan sets into motion much-needed assistance for the dairy industry nationwide and, more specifically, our Arizona dairy farm families as well as our thousands of employees and countless other Arizonans whose livelihoods are directly or indirectly maintained by our operations.

In our 60 years as a dairy cooperative, we have never witnessed a market collapse as quickly and severely as we have seen in the last month. With declines so steep and swift, we did not have the opportunity to make production adjustments to offset the deterioration in demand. In Arizona, we are also at the peak of our natural production with the “spring flush.” Although we cannot simply turn off the faucet, we, as dairy producers, are cutting back production as much and as quickly as possible. However, these adjustments will not come fast enough to sufficiently mitigate the impacts of the market declines.

Our largest customer, Schreiber Foods, purchases 3 million lbs. of milk from our farm families every day. Within a span of two weeks, Schreiber Foods, the sole supplier of McDonald’s preservative-free cheese, dropped their incoming sales over 80%. This sudden decline, along with closures of schools, restaurants, and hotel markets, has required our farmers to make the devastating decision to dispose of excess milk. To date, our farm families have poured over 9 million lbs. of excess raw milk and over 1 million lbs. of cream down the drain. That much milk could supply every household in the city of Phoenix, AZ, with 2 gallons of milk per week for 9 weeks.

No farmer wants to pour milk down the drain, wasting valuable resources. Without additional support, however, there is no economical outlet for the milk our farm families are producing. We are working closely and urgently with our local agencies and the community to secure funding to cover costs of processing, bottling, and transporting milk, which we will donate, to get it to food banks and school lunch sites throughout the entire state. The food banks in our area have served double the number of people in the last three weeks alone.

USDA plays the most significant role in our industry’s efforts to offset the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, diminishing markets, and the greatest losses we have ever seen in UDA’s history. The proposed IDFA/NMPF Milk Crisis Plan will provide necessary support to the dairy industry during this tumultuous time. Without this support, many of our third- and fourth-generation farm families will not make it through the next 90 days. I, and all of the members of UDA, assure you we stand ready and willing to work with you to do whatever is necessary to save our dairies and other businesses that depend on us in Arizona and in all 50 states. The closure of these farm operations would be an enormous loss not only for the individual farm families, the UDA community, and or local and state communities, but for the consumers UDA serves and the greater agricultural community across the U.S



Craig Caballero

Board President and Third Generation Dairy Farmer

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