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(Washington, D.C.) -U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Program (DELAP) will go into effect today. The program, which will provide loss assistance payments to dairy farmers whose livelihoods have been jeopardized by low milk prices and high production costs, was made possible by an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill supported by Senator Shaheen.

"I'm pleased that Secretary Vilsack is working quickly to get this support to our dairy farmers, which will be critical to seeing our small and mid-d dairy farms in New Hampshire through this crisis," said Shaheen. "We must continue to find ways to help dairy farmers profit so that they can keep their farms, and in the long-run, we need to reduce volatility in the market."

Shaheen supported the amendment in the Senate to increase the USDA's budget to provide these critical funds to dairy farmers. The bill increased the Farm Service Agency budget by more than $350 million so that the USDA could provide $290 million in direct assistance to farmers and $60 million to purchase cheese and other dairy products for food banks.

Eligible dairy producers will receive a one-time direct payment based on the amount of milk both produced and commercially marketed by their operation during the months of February through July 2009. Production information from these months will be used to estimate a full year's production to calculate the payments, using a 6 million pound per dairy operation limit.

Milk prices declined substantially through early-to-mid-2009, with the national price for milk averaging $16.80 per hundredweight (cwt.) in the fourth quarter of 2008 and averaging $12.23 per cwt. in the first quarter of 2009, a 27 percent decline.  On average, the price U.S. dairy producers received for milk marketed in the summer of 2009 was about half of what it cost them to produce milk.

This summer, Shaheen and Secretary Vilsack met with dairy farmers in New Hampshire and learned first-hand the challenges they face as a result of low milk prices.  Shaheen urged Secretary Vilsack to take swift action to increase support for dairy farmers through the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP).  Secretary Vilsack made the requested changes to the DPPSP in July, which have aided farmers in recent months.