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As North Dakota schools struggle to get milk, governor signs emergency order

The executive order comes after a large North Dakota milk distributor recently went out of business, according to Gov. Doug Burgum's office.

Kennedy Elementary students getting milk
Lindy Hanson, left, and Alex Paulson, students at Kennedy Elementary School, pick up milk for their classroom in Fargo in 2013.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum signed an executive order on Tuesday, Jan. 25, aimed at easing the shortage of milk delivery drivers that's causing difficulties in getting milk to dozens of school districts and consumers in North Dakota.

The order, which waives the hours of service requirements for truck drivers delivering milk in the state, is in effect for 30 days and comes after a large North Dakota milk distributor recently went out of business, according to a news release from the governor's office.

The release did not specify which milk distributor. However, in a memo obtained by The Forum that was sent to the North Dakota Milk Marketing Board — the agency responsible for regulating North Dakota's dairy industry — it says Red River Dairy and Lakeview Dairy have both ceased their operations.

Red River Dairy in Fargo, and Lakeview Dairy in Devils Lake delivered milk to retailers and schools across the northeast and eastern part of the state, according to the memo.

The governor's office said the recent closure of the milk distributor put more than 50 North Dakota school districts and consumers in rural areas at risk of losing their milk deliveries.

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North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said there's no milk shortage, rather issues getting milk to students and consumers.

“We have adequate production and processing of milk," Goehring said in a statement. "Our concerns lie with access to containers for processors, labor issues within the supply chain and a major shortage of drivers."

The state Milk Marketing Board's decision to waive enforcement of certain requirements will "ensure that businesses, nursing homes, senior citizen centers and schools have access to milk," Goehring said.

To encourage more drivers to enter the industry, the North Dakota Department of Transportation is working to reduce the wait time for commercial driver's license testing and opening multiple temporary testing sites across the state.

"Our actions today are only a temporary fix for a much larger challenge ...." Burgum said in the news release. "We are committed to fostering the innovations needed to get government out of the way and encourage more drivers to enter the workforce."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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