Coronavirus hurting dairy business, Washington County farmers say

Published: Apr. 16, 2020 at 6:57 PM EDT
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Out of all the businesses to be negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak, dairy farmers are hurting too. Bob Hartline, of Hartline Valley Farms says while business has been hurting in general in recent years, the virus has brought on new problems.

“The price of milk now is as cheap as it’s ever been,” said Hartline.

Hartline says there is an surplus of milk and with schools and other buyers closed it’s going to waste. His brother John Hartline says in some cases, it's getting dumped. The Hartlines haven’t had to dump any of their milk yet; John says they might be a little better off with the plant they sell to being so close by. But, his brother says they have received written notice from their buyer that less milk may be purchased in the future.

The Hartlines milk around 250 cows a day, each one producing 80 to 90 pounds of milk. It costs the family business around $17 to produce a hundred pounds of milk, but they’re selling it for around $13 or $14 per hundred pounds.

The dairy farmers say their industry has been on the decline for years. Just six months ago the Associated Press reported the country’s largest dairy supplier had filed for bankruptcy. Several of the other Washington County farms have moved on to other businesses or farmers have even picked up other full time jobs.

“We went from selling milk in the grocery stores to selling almond milk and this milk and that milk and everything else. People’s drank milk all their life, and it hasn't bothered them a bit and now all at once there’s a problem. That’s another thing that’s hard on us -- losing sales. Last ten years, sales of liquid milk have dropped a slow amount every year,” said Bob Hartline.

John Hartline says they get paid about once a month, so they don’t have the most up to date pricing on their milk, but he expects it to drop even more next month.

“It’s hard getting up every morning knowing you need x amount of dollars and knowing you won’t make it,” said John Hartline.

The Hartlines have resorted to selling grain and other side ventures to offset the rising cost of being a dairy farmer. John says they’re lucky to have money saved up from more prosperous times to help out. The farm has been business since 1945.

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