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SHAHEEN CONTINUES PUSH TO AID DAIRY FARMERS

September 21, 2009

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, along with 28 Senate colleagues, urged Chairman Kohl, Chair DeLauro and Ranking Members Brownback and Kingston to retain an amendment to raise the price of milk paid to dairy farmers in the FY10 Agriculture Appropriations bill being considered by the conference committee. Shaheen co-sponsored the amendment, which passed the Senate in August.

"We must preserve the nation's small and mid-sized dairy farms, and to do that we must increase the price of milk paid to farmers," said Shaheen. "I urge my colleagues to include the amendment as a first step in offering relief to farmers, and we will continue to look for long-term ways to reduce volatility in the market so that our dairy farms can survive."

The amendment increases the Farm Service Agency budget by more than $350 million to allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to raise the support price for nonfat dry milk from $.92 per pound to $.97 per pound; the floor for cheddar blocks would go from $1.31 to $1.40; and the price for cheddar barrels would increase from $1.28 to $1.37.

The price farmers receive for their milk has fallen dramatically over the last year, plummeting 41 percent to $11.30 per hundredweight.  It costs farmers about $18 per hundredweight to produce milk.

The amendment complements the swift action taken by Secretary Vilsack in August to make changes to the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP). Since joining the Senate, Shaheen has met with Vilsack in New Hampshire, recommended former New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture and Plainfield resident Stephen Taylor to be appointed to the USDA's commission to review the federal milk marketing order system, sent Vilsack a letter on July 16 with 11 Senate colleagues urging for increases to the DPPSP, and met with Vilsack to reiterate the need for swift action. Secretary Vilsack made the requested changes to the DPPSP on Friday, July 31.

Full text of the letter sent Saturday, September 19 follows:

The Honorable Herb Kohl

Chairman

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro

Chair

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Sam Brownback

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Jack Kingston

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Kohl, Chair DeLauro, Ranking Members Brownback and Kingston:

We are writing to request your support during the Conference Committee on the FY10 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for the $350 million Sanders-Udall (NM)-Schumer-McCaskill-Franken-Bennet dairy amendment adopted by a recorded vote on the Senate floor on August 4. The 60 bipartisan votes the amendment received from every region of the country signaled the Senate's clear and strong commitment to helping our nation's struggling dairy industry.

We know that you are well aware of the crises currently impacting the U.S. dairy sector. Farm milk prices have plummeted over 40% since early this year, which has caused severe economic pain to dairy farmers all across the country. The costs of production far surpass the prices farmers receive for their products. The problem of low milk prices has not been confined to any one region of the country, and has been felt by dairy producers both large and small with related impacts felt throughout our rural economies. For example, feed and implement dealers and other suppliers of services to dairy farmers are also feeling the of these low farm milk prices as farmers' ability to pay for these products and services has dwindled.

America needs a strong, diverse dairy industry to feed our nation and keep rural communities thriving. If retained in the final Agriculture Appropriations Conference Report, the funds provided by this amendment can be utilized by Secretary Vilsack to provide relief to America's Dairy industry. These funds are crucial to helping hasten the recovery of farm milk price this fall.

We would greatly appreciate your support in retaining thus additional $350 million to provide assistance to America's dairy farmers in the final Agriculture Appropriations Conference Report. Thank you again for your strong leadership on behalf of America's dairy farmers and for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen

Bernard Sanders

Tom Udall

Claire McCaskill

Charles Schumer

Michael Bennet

Al Franken

Amy Klobuchar

Patrick Leahy

Russell Feingold

Jack Reed

Dianne Feinstein

Christopher Bond

Arlen Specter

Olympia Snowe

Barbara Boxer

Carl Levin

Mark Udall

Robert Casey

Christopher Dodd

Kirsten Gillibrand

Debbie Stabenow

Maria Cantwell

John Kerry

Robert Menendez

Roland Burris

Mark Begich

Edward Kaufman

Sheldon Whitehouse

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