Central Indiana dairy farmers struggle during COVID-19 pandemic

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SHELBY COUNTY, Ind. – Some dairy farmers in central Indiana say they’re in a dire situation right now because of COVID-19.

Their main customers have shutdown or cut back and aren’t buying as much product.

Dairy farmer Kerry Estes said dairy farmers across central Indiana are concerned.

"Dairy farmers have gone through five years of really difficult times with low prices, and I know personally a lot of farmers that have gone out of business," said Estes of Estes Farm & Dairy.

Estes fears he may be the next one to go out of business if the demand for dairy products doesn’t increase.

He said the coronavirus pandemic has forced their biggest buyers, schools and restaurants, to cut back.

"Farms are still producing. You can’t just put pause on a farm and just say, 'Well, let's just wait until this whole thing is over and restart.' You have to keep going," Estes said.

Estes received a letter from his marketing company that told him he may need to start dumping milk.

"That's a situation where milk is picked up and and taken to a remote location. The milk is then dumped and disposed of to where it can be applied to farm fields," Estes said.

As of Tuesday, the American Dairy Association of Indiana hasn’t heard of any farmers dumping milk.

"You put so much work, so much effort, and you know the quality that’s in that product. You know there are people that need dairy products, and to see something like that go down the drain is disheartening," Estes said.

He said dairy pricing has already been hit.

All of these dilemmas could lead to him closing the farm permanently.

"We trust the lord that he will take care of us. He has gotten us through every single time before, and I have 100% confidence the lord will take care of us," Estes said.

Governor Eric Holcomb said there's no shortage of dairy in the state. He said the state's dairy sector can stock the shelves with dairy products.

Estes said one way to help farmers is to ask grocery stores to stop limiting the number of dairy products people can buy because they have the product.

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