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Land O’Lakes CEO on why some farmers are dumping milk

Andie Corban and Kai Ryssdal May 6, 2020
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Cows eat before being milked on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Cows still produce despite farmers having fewer buyers. Scott Olson/Getty Images
COVID-19

Land O’Lakes CEO on why some farmers are dumping milk

Andie Corban and Kai Ryssdal May 6, 2020
Heard on:
Cows eat before being milked on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Cows still produce despite farmers having fewer buyers. Scott Olson/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Land O’Lakes does a lot more than just make butter, though that may be what the company is best known for. The business is a farmer-owned cooperative that also sells animal feed, seed and crop protection products and other dairy products. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, about the supply-chain issues facing farmers right now.

“This is a very challenging time for agriculture,” Ford said. “What you see is a disruption caused by COVID. On the dairy side, restaurants and schools aren’t open, and so where does that milk go? You don’t just turn the cow off.”

Because of these changes in the supply chain, many farmers are facing a significant drop in prices. Ford said she doesn’t think the dairy sector is getting enough government support and will likely need to seek more funding.

“You can see it right now with these shutdowns within the value chain,” Ford said. “This isn’t about a handout. This is about trying to make sure that we are stabilizing the operating environment for our farmers, growers and producers, so that they can get to the other side.”

Ford is confident that many of Land O’Lakes’ co-op members will make it through this crisis but suspects that some will have to shut down.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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