2009-08-13 / Local & State

Dairy Farmers To Receive Much-Needed Aid

Amendment provides $350 million for milk price supports

The Senate last week voted 60 to 37 for an amendment to provide an extra $350 million for milk price supports to increase government purchases of surplus dairy products. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) cosponsored the measure introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The extra $350 million would provide farmers, on average, an estimated $1.50 extra per hundredweight, the industry's standard unit of measurement and help farmers as they cope with the lowest prices in nearly four decades.

"The dairy farmers of Pennsylvania and the nation are receiving record-low prices for their products - - prices that we have not seen since the late 1970s," Sen. Specter said in a speech on the Senate floor. "I am pleased my colleagues have recognized the importance of adopting this amendment to give some much-needed relief to dairy farmers."

"Family-based dairy agriculture is on the verge of collapse," Sen. Sanders told colleagues in a Senate floor speech. "This is not a regional issue. This is a national issue. From the East Coast to the West Coast, what we are seeing is prices plummeting below the cost of production. If Congress does not act, all over America rural communities are going to be suffering economically."

The increase in the Farm Service Agency budget to more than $1.6 billion would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to raise the support price for nonfat dry milk from 92 cents per pound to 97 cents per pound. The price farmers receive for their milk has bottomed out over the last year, plummeting 41 percent to $11.30 per hundredweight. It costs farmers about $18 per hundredweight to produce milk.

This measure comes on the heels of a roundtable Sen. Specter hosted in Washington, D.C., on July 22 with various stakeholders from Pennsylvania to discuss challenges facing the dairy industry with USDA Undersecretary Jim Miller.

Return to top