New Wisconsin Dairy Recovery Program aims to help both farmers, food pantries

Hunger Task Force pledges $1 million
Posted at 12:32 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 10:46:46-04

MILWAUKEE — Hunger Task Force has partnered with Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to help protect the dairy supply chain in Wisconsin.

Hunger Task Force is pledging $1 million to the newly created Wisconsin Dairy Recovery Program.

Wisconsin dairy farmers will be paid to supply milk to farmer-owned dairy cooperative Kemps, who will process thousands of gallons of milk at its facility in Cedarburg.

Hunger Task Force will then distribute the milk to local food pantries and emergency food organizations for free.

"We considered it a win for the farmers to be able to get a fair price for the milk, a win for the producers who can keep their employees at work packaging the milk and transporting the milk and a win for the customer, ultimately, who recently became unemployed or who were poor all along," said Sherrie Tussler, Hunger Task Force Executive Director.

Wisconsin's $46.5 Billion was hit hard by the closing of schools and restaurants due to concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). About half of the state's dairy production is sold to the food service industry. With about 75% of the nation's restaurants closed amid the ongoing pandemic, dairy farmers were forced to deal with plummeting demand for their products by dumping milk down the drain, according to Hunger Task Force.

At the same time, leaders at Hunger Task Force saw increased need at area food pantries as the state's unemployment rate went from 3% to 27% in the past month.

"We want to make sure that the milk gets into the hand into the hands of recently unemployed people," said Tussler.

Wisconsin's Interim Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said he is proud of the new partnership aimed at helping both farmers and people in need.

"This is the kind of result that we talk about when we talk about keeping the food supply chain moving," said Interim Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Randy Romanski. "The Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection is doing everything it can to work with the industry, work with our partners like the Hunger Task Force and food distribution networks to connect Wisconsin products that need a home to people who may be food insecure,"

Romanski said he has been asking the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to step in and implement a federal buyback program to help provide relief to Wisconsin's farmers and to food banks as well.

"We’ve encouraged the USDA to use its program and purchasing power to do exactly what we’ve done here in connecting this dot," said Secretary Romanski. "The secretary’s office at the USDA told us that its under consideration and they understand the need."

Hunger Task Forces plans to offer this local buyback program for as long as necessary. Leaders ask anybody who wishes to support the ongoing recovery of Wisconsin's dairy Industry to make a donation on their website.

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