Gillibrand seeks change in how farmers are paid for milk
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., plans to introduce a bill today that would change the way dairy farmers get paid for milk.
The bill is part of a comprehensive plan to ensure long-term support and certainty for New York’s dairy farmers by providing a fair safety net for small producers and improve dairy product inventory reporting and transparency, according to a news release from Gillibrand’s office.
The cornerstone of the plan is a bipartisan effort with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, known as the Gillibrand-Collins Dairy Pricing Reform Act to reform the way the U.S. Department of Agriculture sets dairy prices.
Gillibrand said her bill would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study different methods of determining milk prices, including competitive pay pricing. Currently, federal marketing orders set minimum wholesale prices under a system that farmers complain can leave them producing milk at a loss.
She also supports legislation that would give farmers with 200 cows or less a guaranteed margin for their milk.
Gillibrand, in a news release, says many dairy farmers in New York are continuing to struggle with high feed costs despite new demand from upstate yogurt makers. Gillibrand, citing statistics from the USDA, said there were nearly 65,000 fewer dairy cows in New York in 2012 compared to a decade before as farms sold off cows to reduce expenses.
The Farm Bill that passed the Senate last fall included many programs to help New York farmers, but the House of Representatives failed to complete their work on the bill, and none of the new programs became law, Gillibrand said.
“The squeeze facing our dairy farmers is driving them out of business and preventing them from growing to meet demand,” said Gillibrand, New York’s first member of the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “We can’t afford any more delay in Congress. We need to take action now to set the environment for our dairy farmers to thrive. These commonsense proposals can give our dairy farmers the certainty and stability they need to grow their businesses, and help strengthen our state’s rural economies.”
While dairy remains New York’s leading agricultural product – producing nearly 13 billion pounds for a value of $2.75 billion – dairy farmers are suffering from a range of setbacks. High fuel costs, and severe grain and hay shortages continue to push up the cost of production, yet the price paid to farmers remains stagnant – putting a squeeze on farmers, preventing New York from maintaining its competitiveness among other dairy states, and holding our farms back from a growing business, Gillibrand said.