I mentioned previously that a short time ago Grassland Dairy Products here in Wisconsin, which makes mostly butter, sent out letters to 75 dairy farmers telling them that as of May 1 Grassland would no longer be buying their milk. This left those farmers in a terrible situation. They now have no place to sell their milk. And the way the market is right now, finding a new processor to sell to is almost impossible.
In it’s press releases and comments to the media Grassland blames Canada. Canada, according to Grassland, changed their dairy import policies almost literally overnight, making it impossible for Grassland to continue to sell almost a million pounds a day of ultra-filtered milk, used in cheese making, to Canada. According to some of the information that came from the company, they received only two days notice before the change was implemented. The company had no choice but to cut back on the amount of milk it purchases. Grassland claims that it cut off those farmers that the company felt would have the best chance of finding a new market for their milk elsewhere.
But some people started to do some digging, and as is often the case, what’s been coming out in the press releases and statements from the company seems to have some problems. I ran into an op-ed piece over at Wisconsin Agriculturist that points out numerous problems with the whole story as it’s being presented by Grassland, and if true, there is a lot more going on here. You can read it here.
First of all, allegedly Grassland was not blind sided by this as they seem to be claiming. This didn’t happen overnight as the press releases seem to claim. This has been in the works by Canada for a long time. Grassland allegedly knew about this back in November already, and may have known as much as two years ago according to the editorial piece. Governor Walker actually wrote a column about it back in November.
Then there is the issue of which farms they cut off. The company claims it picked farms that it believed would best be able to find markets for their milk. But almost all of the farms being cut off are the ones that are the farthest away from the company’s processing facility in Clark County. Cutting off the farms that are the farthest away from their processing center would save the company a small fortune on shipping costs.
There there is this little tidbit: At the same time the company is cutting off 75 dairy farms, it is trying to get the permits to build it’s own 5,000 cow company owned mega-farm.
There’s no doubt that the company lost significant sales of product to Canada, but there seems to be a lot more going on here than just a trade squabble with Canada.