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(Washington, D.C.) - The Senate passed an amendment cosponsored by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen to increase the amount paid to dairy farmers for milk through the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) dairy price support program. The amendment was part of the Senate's Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

"Secretary Vilsack's increased support for dairy farmers was a great first step, and I'm happy that the Senate has taken the next step to keep family dairy farms in business," said Shaheen.  "While this is great news, we must continue to find ways to help dairy farmers profit so that they can keep their farms during this crisis.  And in the long-run, we need to reduce volatility in the market so that we don't face another crisis like this again."

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. These higher support prices, made possible by yesterday's amendment, will increase the prices that farmers get for their milk.

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 earlier this week 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.

The amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Sanders, Snowe, Udall (NM), Schumer, Bennet, Specter, McCaskill, Gillibrand and Klobuchar. The amendment was included in the Senate's FY2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill, and must now go to a conference committee with the House.