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USDA asks for additional dairy assistance

Sen. Gillibrand seeks $300 million in emergency relief funding for dairy farmers immediately.

Jacqui Fatka

May 16, 2018

2 Min Read
USDA asks for additional dairy assistance

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) called on U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to authorize $300 million in emergency relief funding for dairy farmers immediately.

USDA has the authority to provide direct financial assistance to struggling agriculture industries. This authority was used most recently in 2016 and 2018 to support and protect cotton farmers through the Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program. Gillibrand called on USDA to utilize this authority once more for dairy farmers in New York and across the country.

The letter noted, “While there is no comparable program to support dairy producers, milk -- like cotton -- must be handled and processed extensively prior to its sale. Therefore, there are several points in milk production that are reasonable targets for USDA support, including reductions in milk hauling fees, make allowances and marketing program payments.”

In order to maximize the impact of any support payments and reduce any potential for supply distortion, Gillibrand urged Perdue to consider making this a one-time payment available only on the first 4 million lb. of production, with additional consideration to account for regions with the highest estimated costs of production.

“There is a clear mandate and broad authority for such action as the (Commodity Credit Corp.) Charter sets forward goals to stabilize, support and protect farm income and prices and facilitate the orderly distribution of commodities,” she wrote in her letter.

Gillibrand said dairy farmers across New York are suffering from historically low dairy prices and are forced to shoulder an increasing amount of debt in order to continue operating their farms.

“Dairy farms are at the heart of New York’s rural economy, but milk prices are so low that more than 1,200 dairy farms have shut down in just the last decade, and many more are on the brink of failing. This is a crisis right in our own back yard,” Gillibrand said. “I’m calling on the USDA to immediately provide financial assistance to our dairy producers. I want this emergency funding to go directly to the farmers who need it so they can keep producing milk without going bankrupt. The USDA should do the right thing and give our dairy farmers the help they need now.”

Dairy farmers could receive $8,000, on average, if USDA complies with Gillibrand’s request. This funding would be paid directly to farmers as part of their milk check.

Gillibrand noted that these farms are the “bedrock of the agricultural economy and rural communities throughout the state.”

Every dollar of on-farm milk sale generates $2.29 in the local economy, and for every full-time worker on a dairy farm, another 1.5 jobs are created in other parts of the food industry.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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