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Why some dairy farms are dumping milk instead of donating to food banks

Headlines about California dairy farmers being forced to dump milk due to the coronavirus pandemic has left many with questions. Here is what we learned.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Headlines about California dairy farmers being forced to dump milk due to the coronavirus pandemic has left many with questions about why they're not donating their products to food pantries. 

Dairy farmers are dumping their milk because restaurants and customers are not buying milk because of stay at home orders that have kept people inside their home and forced restaurants to close or do  take-out only.

ABC10 spoke to two members of the dairy industry on why it's hard for farms to donate milk or to transform their dairy into other products: Arlin Van Groningen, a third-generation dairy farmer and Anja Raudabaugh, the CEO of Western United Dairies.  

RELATED: Dairy farmers begin to dump milk as California restaurants, schools close amid coronavirus pandemic  

Why don't dairy farmers donate milk to food pantries? 

Dairy is not like produce, which allows farmers to give it away for free directly. Regulations make it illegal for farmers to either sell or give away raw milk, which has to be pasteurized first.

Raudabaugh said while the dairy industry is doing everything its power to donate milk to food pantries, one obstacle is convincing the companies that to it would be a good use of resources pasteurize milk to donate products directly to food banks. 

Van Groningen added that donating milk to food banks is a "logistical nightmare," because a few things make it harder for dairy farmers to donate their milk to food pantries. For example, there are not enough refrigerated trucks to deliver the milk, and food pantries can't receive large quantities of because of a lack of refrigerators and shelf space. 

However, Van Groningen, who said his dairy farm is donating milk throughout California, that he mostly uses his milk for butter and powder.

Could dairy farmers use the milk to make another product like butter or cheese?

Most dairy farms do not have the equipment to convert milk into other products such as dry milk, butter or cheese, Van Groningen said.

On top of that, farms would need to hire additional labor to make dairy products. 

Additionally, farmers would be liable for the products that they sell or donate.

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