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Missouri Department of Agriculture Asks Grocery Retailers to Cease Consumer Limits on Dairy

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is asking grocery stores to stop limiting the amount of milk that customers can buy as dairy farmers deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter addressed to Missouri’s grocery retailers, the Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said it was important that all of Missouri does its part in supporting the dairy industry, which contributes $2 billion annually to the state’s gross domestic product.

“Milk processors and distributers have successfully diverted the milk supply from schools and restaurants to grocery store,” wrote Chinn. “The milk processors in Missouri are delivering 100 percent of the orders being placed right now and they are ready to fill even more.”

The decision to ask stores to lift their restrictions was made in response to concerns raised by farmers who were having trouble moving milk off of their farms. The Department of Agriculture said lifting the purchase limits will help to address the issues with demand and support Missouri’s dairy industry.

As major milk consumers such as schools and restaurants remain closed, Missouri is experiencing a surplus of milk throughout the state. Missouri State Milk Board Spokesperson Gene Wiseman said milk marketing co-ops across the state are asking farmers to dump milk in response to the decreased demand. Wiseman says the initial change in demand prompted grocery stores to limit purchases of milk because some stores could not restock their milk products fast enough.

Grocery stores initially placed limits on milk products due to a sharp increase in demand as a result of the pandemic spreading to Missouri. This spike was immediately followed by a significant decrease in demand as Missouri residents began to self-isolate.

“There was an immediate spike in demand, and then it backed off quickly,” said Wiseman. “Processors were having a hard time understanding what the demand was, and yet still trying to meet demand.”

Chinn said that it is important for Missourians to realize that grocery stores placed limits to protect their customers.

“The grocery retailers were not the bad guys in any of this situation,” said Chinn. “I don’t want them to be portrayed in a bad light because they truly were trying to do right by their customers and make sure that there was enough product for everyone.”

Chinn emphasized that there is not a supply problem when it comes to dairy products in Missouri.