Pennsylvania brings dairy farms and food banks together during pandemic


Shoppers haven't been buying as many dairy products but food banks have significantly more people to feed, so the state was able to help both

MERCER, Pa. (WKBN) – Farmers do a great job growing and producing the food we eat but the market isn’t always kind. COVID-19 has had a big impact on agriculture but Pennsylvania is helping farmers recover.

Ralph Moore Dairy Farm in Mercer has over 100 cows that produce six gallons of milk a day.

The coronavirus didn’t hurt the milk, but the Moores and other dairy farmers have had to dump it because the market has dried up.

“Whenever you put your life effort into producing a quality product that goes to a consumer and is appreciated, whenever you see that going down the drain, it’s a hard thing to stomach,” Dean Kind said.

Thirty dairy farms were supported when Pennsylvania bought 202,000 pounds of Swiss cheese, which was left without a market due to food supply chain disruptions.

Laubscher Cheese Company in Mercer brought back ten furloughed employees to cut it up into two-pound packages. It’s being passed out to 13 food banks, including the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County.

“Just from seeing our clients who receive it, the looks on their faces is like, ‘This is awesome.’ And it just saves them on their food dollars as well,” said Lori Weston, with Community Food Warehouse.

The cheese purchase lightened the impact of dumping milk.

Pennsylvania is also using $15 million in CARES Act funding for direct dairy assistance. Farms are eligible for a minimum $1,500 payment.

The cheese purchase shows how the surplus system can support local dairies, the workforce and food banks.

“It didn’t have a market, it wasn’t for retail, it maybe wouldn’t have gone to the food bank. But as the result of the $20 million, it now goes to feed people, and the farmer gets paid and jobs are created. So that’s the real benefit,” said Russell Redding, Pennsylvania agriculture secretary.

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) has distributed over 12 million pounds of products over the last five years.

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