Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response
As cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to be found in the United States and worldwide, MMPA along with other food-industry professionals are monitoring public health and responding to market effects. MMPA is committed to protecting the health and well-being of our communities, while ensuring we continue to market members’ milk to the greatest advantage possible. As we continue to monitor the situation, MMPA is following recommendations from national and state government agencies, where applicable, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
While still operating, MMPA locations, including plants and offices have taken several actions to further sanitize and secure our locations. Some employees are connected remotely as we work through all the aspects associated with marketing member milk. MMPA modifed, canceled or postponed several meetings.
Out of an abundance of caution, the Heritage Ridge Creamery store in Middlebury, Indiana, was closed from mid-March to mid-May. The store reopened with several precautions in place on May 14.
Considering the severe impact COVID-19 had on the dairy industry, MMPA worked with legislators and the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding the need for aid for dairy farmers through this crisis. MMPA’s membership in organizations including the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) and the Agriculture Leaders of Michigan (ALM) is allowing us to unify with others to advocate on members’ behalf.
Food and agriculture workers play a crucial role in ensuring people in the Great Lakes region continue to have safe, reliable access to food. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire dairy supply chain–from the dairy farmers and milk haulers to the dairy processing plants and cooperative employees—have all continued to work through the pandemic. We appreciate the prioritization of food and agriculture in the next phase of the vaccine roll out in the state of Michigan as it will help keep our essential workers safe and healthy. We look forward to seeing more details from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on how the vaccine program will be administered to the food and agriculture industry.
MMPA is responding to increased need at food banks in the Great Lakes region with dairy product donations.
In Michigan, MMPA, along with Kroger’s Michigan Dairy plant, donated over 2,020 pounds of milk per day to the Food Bank Council of Michigan throughout 2020. In total over 85,000 gallons of milk will be donated to reach all 83 counties of Michigan. The first load of milk was delivered at the end of March. MMPA also donated 500 pounds of cheese and over 1,100 pounds of butter to the United Way of St. Joseph County (Michigan) to distribute to families in need in that county. St. Joseph County is where MMPA’s Constantine manufacturing plant is located.
In Indiana, MMPA donated cheese from Heritage Ridge Creamery to Second Helpings, an organization focused on providing meals to individuals and families in need, with particular emphasis now amidst the COVID-19 issue. MMPA is also donating one-pound packages of cheese to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, an organization that provides food assistance in a six-county area in Northern Indiana.
Milk and dairy remain one of the most requested items at approximately 3,000 pantries in Michigan. Yet, dairy only comprises 5.7% of products received at the food banks. The Food Bank Council of Michigan has added a special fundraising option where donations from the public will be used to purchase dairy products.
$10 donation = 90 servings of fresh milk!
$25 donation = 133 servings of cheese!
MMPA employees helped kick off the campaign and have raised $2,000 to date. The funds will enable the food bank system to purchase around 18,000 servings of milk or 10,640 servings of cheese for families in need.
Dairy farms are 24-hour, 7-day per week business and operations must continue. Resources to support our members, their employees and their operations during the COVID-19 outbreak are included below. MMPA has provided regular email updates to members during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Members are encouraged to reach out to their member representative for guidance during this challenging time.
The Michigan Department of Health of Human Services (MDHHS) announced that workers in food processing and agricultural settings, about 79,000 Michiganders, may be eligible to be vaccinated as soon as March 1, if supplies are available. This will help ensure the health and safety of Michigan’s essential food and agriculture workers—including MMPA members and their employees—and keep the state’s food supply chain moving.
Under the MDHHS approved definition of food and ag worker, farmers and farm workers are eligible to receive the vaccine in Michigan, as supplies become available. If you are interested in receiving the vaccine, you are encouraged to register with your County Health Department and indicate you are a food and ag worker. Visit michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine for more information or to register to receive the vaccine in your county.
Vaccination is one of many important tools to help stop the pandemic. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has put together a COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers to help employers educate their essential workers about this important new prevention. In addition, National Milk Producers Federation has a number of resources for dairy farmers to utilize. The information can be found at nmpf.org/coronavirus.
COVID-19 Guidelines and Protocols
To promote good sanitary practices on farms, MMPA encourages members to talk with their employees about coronavirus, how it spreads and how to prevent getting infected. The COVID-19 handbooks below are a valuable resource in how to maintain your farm’s regular operation during the pandemic.
Employee Training Documents
MMPA encourages member farms to prepare a disaster contingency plan in the event that 50 percent of farm employees become sick and unable to work. Members can use the FARM program’s Comprehensive Emergency Action Plan Guide to develop a personalized plan for their operation. Members can also prepare to train potentially new, unskilled employees about proper milking procedures using the Quality Udder Preparation posters.
MMPA is working diligently to ensure the safety and availability of milk products to our customers during this health emergency. MMPA is continuing normal operations where possible but has taken several actions to ensure continued supply of dairy products, while safeguarding the health of our members, employees and communities where they reside.
Be assured, pasteurized milk and dairy products are safe. The FDA has confirmed that heat treatment kills other coronaviruses, so pasteurization is expected to also inactivate this virus. In addition, there is no evidence that this strain of coronavirus is present in domestic livestock such as cattle. The virus is spread through aerosol transmission and close human contact, not through food products.
As members of the dairy industry, our milk haulers and employees are deemed “essential” and are continuing to operate.