MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) —  Minnesota dairy farmers are seeing their own set of challenges with Covid-19.

The state lost 300 dairy farms last year. Now, the market has shrunk. Schools made up about 8% of their sales, and restaurants were big buyers of cheese and other products.

“We were starting to see some good prices in the industry, finally,” said Lucas Sjostrom, executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association.

Like so many industries, the timing of the Covid-19 outbreak couldn’t have been worse for dairy. Of all the commodities impacted, milk has been one of the hardest hit.

“When restaurants are down cheese isn’t sold. When cheese isn’t sold, markets are down especially in the Upper Midwest,” said Sjostrom.

Sjostrom said right now consumers are seeing fewer milk options at grocery stores and there’s a reason for that.

“One and 2% are their top two products at the bottler. So they’ve been focusing on that and sacrificing skim and whole in a large way,” said Sjostrom.

Sjostrom’s wife Alise is one of the owners of Redhead Creamery near Brooten. Without consumers coming into their store, they’ve had to re-invent the cheese wheel so to speak — by adding deliveries.

“People are so crazy about it. They are excited to have cheese delivered to their house,” said Alise.

Social distance deliveries mean dropping off packages of cheese at a client’s front door. The creamery is hoping restrictions are lifted by the summer — when they have the most visitors. But after this is over, deliveries could be a permanent part of their business plan.

“We continue to adjust and adapt with our market. Who knows? The delivery services is something that we may incorporate into our plan,” said Alise.

With beef prices rebounding recently, dairy farmers are also holding out for hope that milk prices aren’t far behind.

John Lauritsen

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