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Kalamazoo dairy farm might be forced to dump milk due to low demand

Clouds dance over a barn at Vlietstra Dairy Farm in Kalamazoo on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (WWMT/Sarah White)

Vlietstra Dairy Farm in Kalamazoo found itself facing a situation rarely seen Tuesday. Due to a sharp drop in demand, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, farm owners might soon be forced to dump excess supplies of milk.

Farm co-owner Fred Vlietstra said the move comes as the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 continues to affect the marketplace.

"Yesterday morning we got a phone call that told us to dump our milk because they were not going to have any room to store it," Vlietstra said.

Most of the milk that the farm produces is used for the food service industry, which has seen a mass shutdown due to the stay-at-home and social distancing rules designed to curb COVID-19 infection rates.

"Orders aren't coming in," Vlietstra said. "The food service agencies, for the time being, have canceled the orders and left us hanging."

Vlietstra said he has been in this position before, but not to this extent.

"This reminds me of the snowstorm of '67. Milk could not leave the farm but there was always a place to put it if they could get to the farm," he said. "Now we are in a position where it can leave the farm, but they have no place to put it."

Luckily, the Vlietstra's have not had to dump any milk yet; they had some room to store about two days worth.

"The truck did show up this morning and took some of the milk, not all of it; but tomorrow I don't know what it's going to be," he said.

The Vlietstras said they have received many phone calls from the public wanting to purchase milk, but legally they cannot sell it because it has not been processed. Even though the farm might not be able to ship away milk or legally sell it, Vlietstra said, the work must go on.

"Cows have to be milked and they have to be fed. We will never jeopardize the health of our animals for anything," he said.