U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has called on USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to authorize $300 million in emergency relief funding for dairy farmers immediately. Gillibrand says 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.
The USDA has the authority to provide direct financial assistance to struggling agricultural industries. This authority has been used most recently in 2016 and 2018 to support and protect cotton farmers. Gillibrand called on the USDA to utilize this authority once more for dairy farmers in New York and across the country.
“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 backyard,” said Senator Gillibrand. “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 the USDA complies with Gillibrand’s request. This funding would be paid directly to farmers as part of their milk check. New York is the third-largest dairy producing state, with more than 4,400 dairies producing nearly 15 billion pounds of milk each year. 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.
The full text of Gillibrand’s letter is available here.