Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today announced that following her push, her Dairy Premium Refund Act will be included as a provision in this year’s Senate version of the Farm Bill. This provision will return $77.1 million in insurance premiums paid by farmers for an insurance program that left them empty-handed when milk prices plummeted. The refunded premiums paid by farmers from 2015-2017 will be returned to them from the U.S. Treasury Department as part of their regular milk check. The Senate Agriculture Committee-passed Farm Bill will soon be taken up by the full Senate.
“I am proud that I was able to secure these urgently needed funds in the Senate Farm Bill to give our dairy farmers a lifeline,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I’ve heard from dairy farmers all over New York who are struggling to get by because milk prices are so low, whose farms aren’t making any profit and are shutting down, and who have been essentially ripped off by the dairy insurance program, which has failed to cover our farmers right when they needed it the most. These much-needed reimbursement funds will pay back our dairy farmers who bought into the insurance system but received nothing in return, even when milk prices collapsed. Our dairy farmers are part of the bedrock of New York’s rural economy, and I will always fight for them in the Senate.”
According to the USDA Economic Research Service 2016 report, New York State dairy farmers are a major economic driver in the state and produce more than $2.51 billion worth of milk per year on 4,420 farms across 53 counties. The current USDA dairy insurance program is the primary insurance option for dairy farmers when the price paid to farmers falls or feed costs rise. Thousands of New York dairy farmers paid millions of dollars to the USDA for this insurance, but when milk prices and feed prices fell at the same time as they did last year, farmers lost money on every pound of milk they sold and few farmers received an insurance payment.
Gillibrand’s provision would ensure that dairy farmers automatically receive a check in the mail for any insurance premium funds not used to pay claims to them during the previous year. Currently, these leftover funds are given to the U.S. Department of Treasury rather than to the farmers who paid them. This bill proposes no new spending, would provide payments retroactively since the DMPP program was implemented in 2015, and would apply to 2015-2017 calendar years.