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

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Cows eat before being milked on a Wisconsin dairy farm.

Cows eat before being milked on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Cows still produce despite farmers having fewer buyers. Scott Olson/Getty Images

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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.

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