(Washington, DC)-U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today called on Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack to act swiftly in aiding dairy farmers in New Hampshire and nationwide as milk prices paid to farmers continue to plummet and farmers face difficult circumstances due to the economy. Specifically, Shaheen and 11 of her Senate colleagues called for temporarily increasing the federal support price for milk during this crisis, which will help ensure that family farms in New Hampshire stay solvent.
"Secretary Vilsack recently visited New Hampshire and heard firsthand the challenges our dairy farmers face in this difficult economy," said Shaheen. "We must do everything we can to ensure that we keep locally produced milk and dairy products in New Hampshire, and make sure our local farms stay in business."
In addition to the letter sent to Vilsack today, Shaheen this week recommended former New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture and Plainfield resident Stephen H. Taylor to be appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's commission to review the federal milk marketing order system. The commission will advise Vilsack on top issues facing dairy farmers across New Hampshire and the nation.
The full text of the letter sent today follows:
The Honorable Thomas Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We are writing to request your immediate attention to the current crisis in the dairy sector.
As you know, America's dairy producers are facing the worst prices in nearly 30 years. Dairy farmers from every region of the country are losing money each month which is jeopardizing the long term stability of the industry and the livelihood of thousands of our rural communities. We appreciate your actions to implement the Dairy Export Incentives Program and your recent comments supporting additional lending opportunities for dairy producers. Despite those welcome actions, we believe more aggressive action is needed to halt the current crisis.
As you know, Congress in Section 1501 of the enacted 2008 Farm Bill (P.L. 110-246) updated the Dairy Price Support program to set price floors under individual dairy products (butter, cheese and non-fat dry milk). While specific prices at which USDA is mandated to purchase product were included in the legislation, Congress clearly gave the Department the authority to increase the purchase prices if necessary. We are therefore urging you to temporarily increase the Dairy Price Support program products purchases by a significant level to restore a meaningful safety net for America's dairy farmers.
We believe bold and swift action to increase the purchase prices under the Dairy Price Support program is needed to avert further crisis. During January through April this year, the U.S. all-milk price averaged $4.80 per cwt. below the U.S. average cash cost of production. And in the months since, dairy farmers have continued to lose significant equity. A meaningful but temporary increase in the Dairy Price Support program will begin to restore farm level prices and help restore producers' ability to produce basic cash flow for their operations during these difficult financial times.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this issue. We look forward to working with you to support America's dairy producers.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Herb Kohl
Senator Russ Feingold
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Patty Murray
Senator Tim Johnson
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Robert Casey
Senator Arlen Specter
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand