September 24, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Call For Inclusion Of $350 Million To Help Dairy Farmers Reeling From Crisis In Final Agriculture Appropriations Bill

Provision, Already Included In Senate Version Of Bill Would Help NY Dairy Farmers Get A Fair Price

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand urged the House-Senate Conference Committee to include $350 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help New York farmers struggling during the dairy crisis in the final Agriculture Appropriations Bill.  Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont authored the provision that was included in the Senate version of the legislation.

"Our dairy farmers are hurting.  A large step was taken when we convinced Secretary Vilsack to increase prices paid to farmers, and this is an important second step.  We need more to ensure that our dairy farmers survive this crisis and we will continue working to make sure that they do," Senator Schumer said.

"During these tough economic times, this increase will bring some much needed relief for our farmers," said Senator Gillibrand, the first New York Senator in 40 years to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee. "While this is great for New York's dairy farmers, this is only a temporary solution to the fundamental problems with the dairy pricing system.  I will continue to work for a long term fix for our farmers."

New York farmers are facing a dairy pricing crisis. According to the USDA it costs a New York dairy farmer $18.82 to produce a hundredweight of milk. Yet in July the average New York farmer received only $11.60 per hundredweight, though a number of farmers reported receiving even less.  The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC), which was designed to be a safety net when there is a large price discrepancy, has not been able to adequately protect New York's dairy farmers. As a result, New York farmers have been forced to either take on massive debt to cover their costs or go out of business.

In their letter, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand joined with 27 of their Senate Colleagues, writing, "America needs a strong, diverse dairy industry to feed our nation and keep rural communities thriving.  If retained in the final Agriculture Appropriations Conference Report, the funds provided by this amendment can be utilized by Secretary Vilsack to provide relief to America's dairy industry.  These funds are crucial to helping hasten the recovery of farm milk prices this fall."

The Agriculture Appropriations Bill is now being reconciled by the House-Senate Conference Committee, before final passage in both chambers, and sent to the President to become law.