Tropical Storm Irene Steals Your Milk Money

Tropical Storm Irene Steals Your Milk Money

October 05, 2011 at 4:00 am

Members of the New York National Guard use heavy equipment to clear debris from a stream in Middleburgh, N.Y., on Aug. 30, 2011 after Tropical Storm Irene. The area's dairy farms were hard hit by the storm. AP Photo/Hans Pennink

The rains are long gone and the flood waters have subsided but Tropical Storm Irene’s impact in the dairy aisle has just begun.

“It wiped out our farm, our business, it wiped out our home,” said dairy farmer Denise Lloyd, who operates Maple Downs Farm in Middleburgh, N.Y., with her husband David and their two sons. “My car was totaled, trucks were totaled, everywhere you look it affected every part of our lives.”

Many of New York’s 36,000 farms were wrecked by Irene, especially those located in the fertile floodplains below the Catskill Mountains. GrowNYC, a program that promotes regional agriculture, estimated that 10 percent of farms that participate in New York City Greenmarkets sustained serious damage.

The timing of Tropical Storm Irene, which hit just before the fall harvest, could not have been worse for produce farmers. But dairy farmers were hit with a double-whammy. In addition to losing livestock and equipment during the floods, waters washed away the reserves of feed they need to get their animals through the winter.


David and Denise Lloyd operate Maple Downs Farm Middleburgh, N.Y. with their two sons. They said that flood damage from Tropical Storm Irene has hurt their ability to deliver dairy products to New York City consumers. Lize de Guia reports for Food Curated.

“In about 20 minutes, the water level went from nothing to 7 feet high,” said David Lloyd. He estimated that he lost 47 animals, mostly calves that were too small to stay above water.

The government has stepped in to help farmers like the Lloyds. In addition to emergency funds for clean-up, the federal government announced that it would reimburse dairy farmers for unsold milk during the storm at the market price of $4 per gallon, according to the Associated Press.

As for consumers, Irene is the latest development in a chain of events driving up the price of dairy. Even before Irene, a half-gallon of milk now averages $2.20 in New York City, an 11 percent increase from 2000, according to the Daily News. And, furthering fears of price increases, Queens-based Elmhurst Dairy — the only milk processor left in New York City — recently threatened to close when Starbucks turned to a supplier located in Dallas, Texas.

Federal government regulations and a strong export market for dairy are keeping prices stable, for the moment. But experts warn that dairy prices can fluctuate dramatically. Dairy farm losses in a top-producing state like New York could impact prices nationwide, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

So hold on to your milk money and keep your fingers crossed for New York’s dairy farms.

Read the post at Food Curated.

Daniel T. Allen contributed additional reporting.