Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua) and Assemblyman Cliff Crouch (R,I-Guilford), Ranking Minority Member on the Assembly's Agriculture Committee, sent a letter earlier this week to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to distribute the $290 million in direct assistance to dairy farmers as quickly as possible through the existing Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program.
"Family dairy farms are the backbone of our economy," said Kolb. "Assemblyman Crouch and I wrote to Secretary Vilsack asking him to release federal funds that would counter the volatile milk market and help struggling family farms. The immediate allocation of this funding will save our dairy farmers and improve local economies."
Additionally, Kolb and Crouch urged the USDA to either double the cap rate or double the payment rate to 90 percent of the MILC program. They asked that all producers who have been actively farming in 2009 be eligible for payments, regardless of whether or not they have capped out of MILC, and that direct payments reflect a retroactive MILC payment for the past two months, discounting any payments that already have been distributed.
The letter comes on the heels of three successful Assembly Minority Dairy Assistance Program Rallies held in Genesee, Washington and Chenango counties, respectively. Local dairy farmers and industry representatives told the lawmakers that they are being paid prices catastrophically below the price of production for their milk. In fact, many dairy producers have been forced to max out loans, sell their cows and lay off valued workers in an attempt to keep their farms in business.
"My wife and I owned and operated a dairy farm for 22 years, and I am well aware of the current hardships facing the dairy farming community," said Crouch, Chairman of the Agriculture, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Task Force. "The dairy industry in New York State is in serious danger of collapsing and we must swiftly provide the necessary financial assistance to help them through these difficult economic times."
Family dairy farms across the U.S. are facing the most harrowing economic times in the modern history of the country's dairy industry. In New York State, the average price that dairy farmers have received for their milk in October is $11.01 per hundredweight (cwt.), which is an 84 cents/cwt. slide from May and a $7.84/cwt. decrease from June of 2008.
A recent study conducted by Cornell University revealed that for dairy farmers in New York to just meet the average cost of production, they would need to receive $17/cwt. for their milk.
Upcoming Dairy Assistance Program Rallies will be held in Central New York and the Rochester area. For more information, please call the Assembly Minority Office of Public Affairs at (518) 455-5073.