(Washington, D.C.)-U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to increase price supports for small New Hampshire dairy farmers facing low prices on milk products. While prices have increased due to last year's action, which Shaheen urged, prices remain too low for dairy farmers to make ends meet.
"At a time when many dairy farmers are struggling to recover from last year's historically low prices, milk prices are projected to remain below the cost of production. It is critical that the Department of Agriculture takes quick action to respond," said Shaheen. "I urge the USDA to use all existing authorities to assist our struggling dairy industry."
New Hampshire dairy farmers have faced difficult economic times that have threatened to close many of the state's small- and medium-sized farms. In December 2009, Shaheen announced that the implementation of USDA's Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Program (DELAP) that will provide significant relief to New Hampshire dairy farmers will go into effect immediately. The program, which provides 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 Shaheen. Last year, Shaheen and 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). Vilsack made the requested changes to the DPPSP in July 2009, which has aided farmers in recent months.
The full text of the letter to Vilsack follows:
April 16, 2010
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC, 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
Recently, several of my colleagues wrote to urge you to take proactive steps to address the issue of low dairy prices. I am writing to join their request that you take similar actions to those you took last year in the near future.
In 2009, the dairy industry experienced its lowest prices in over 40 years. Early forecasts show prices improving through 2010, but this has not been the case thus far. At a time when many dairy farmers are struggling to recover from last year's historically low prices, milk prices are projected to remain below the cost of production. It is critical that the Department of Agriculture takes quick action to respond.
The USDA took several proactive steps address low dairy prices last year. I believe the USDA should take similar actions this year, such as continuing the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP), expediting DEIP payments and using the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP) to bolster the falling prices for non-fat dried milk, barrel cheese, and cheddar block cheese. In 2009, the USDA helped increase market prices without causing product acquisitions by the Commodity Credit Corporation by temporarily raising support prices. In that instance, the USDA was able to help dairy farmers earn a higher market price for their products without having to purchase cheese at the increased prices. I believe that the USDA could take the same action today to temporarily increase market prices to aid dairy producers, without incurring the costs of a purchase.
I ask that the USDA use all existing authorities to assist our struggling dairy industry. New Hampshire's dairy producers appreciated your supportive efforts last year, and I hope you take similar action once again.
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen