The Dairy State is facing a dairy crisis and the pandemic has made things much worse. Already, Wisconsin's dairy heritage has been threatened by incredibly low milk prices and farm closures. But the coronavirus pandemic has led farmers to take drastic measures, dumping unwanted milk into manure piles and fearing for their futures.
Cheri and Ryan Klussendorf are on the frontlines of this issue. They own Broadlands Grass Farm in Medford, Wis., and Ryan Klussendorf is on the board for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
As a state leader in the industry, he says he’s spending most days on the phone trying to figure out how to help Wisconsin's flailing dairy farmers. That’s, of course, when he isn’t taking care of the cows.
Cheri Klussendorf says, "There’s a lot of stress out there, and we thought it was stressful before? I would say the stress is magnified by 100 now, because there’s so many unknowns of what’s going to happen and if you get your milk check, is there going to be a letter from your plant in there saying, ‘We need you to cut back.' "
She explains that cutting back production by 8%, or whatever the processing plant might ask of a farmer, is the same as cutting 8% of the farm's profit. A lot of people fear that the next check from the processing plant might not cover the bills, she adds.
In an industry that was already suffering from low-wages and low morale, Ryan Klussendorf says this could be the death knell.
"Things need to turn around quick ... We lost farms at a rapid rate last year and it's going to be devastating this year because this time they're going to go out and nobody's going to come back," he says.
After this interview was recorded, the Klussendorf's barn burned down. Everyone, including the animals, is safe. The Klussendorf’s cows have been taken to another facility. They’re asking that people keep the family in their thoughts or prayers. There is a Go Fund Me campaign for people interested in donating to the Klussendorf family.
During this pandemic, WUWM's Bubbler Talk is focusing on the coronavirus and its impact on the Milwaukee area. If you have a question, submit it below.