NFU Appreciates Lawmaker Support for Direct Dairy Assistance as Farmers Struggle to Stay in Business
WASHINGTON (October 14, 2016) – As U.S. dairy producers are facing the business-crippling burden of multi-year price lows, National Farmers Union (NFU) praised several lawmakers for their support of critically needed assistance for the nation’s dairy sector.
Two letters, championed by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), were sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, respectively, requesting direct financial aid to farmers and broader authority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assist dairy producers.
“I cannot emphasize enough how severe the situation is for America’s dairy farmers; too many producers have lost or are desperately close to losing their farms. NFU is appreciative of our friends in Congress who have echoed the requests made by our members during our September Legislative Fly-In, asking for critically-needed and immediate assistance for the nation’s dairy producers,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.
In the past two years, milk prices have dropped by more than 40 percent. As both letters explain, the Dairy Margin Protection Program (DMPP) has not provided the safety net needed to cope with this decline, and as a result, additional avenues for direct assistance must be explored to help struggling dairy farmers.
“Despite current budgetary constraints and the need for future statutory changes, we believe that there are key measures that can be taken in appropriations legislation for FY17 that will provide critical near-term support to dairy farmers and pave the way for longer-term sustainability in the industry,” Sen. Shaheen and 17 lawmakers wrote in the letter to leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
In addition, the letter’s signers requested:
- The removal of provisions from FY17 spending legislation that restrict USDA Secretary Vilsack’s ability to effectively respond to this crisis under Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935 or engage in price support activities under Section 5 of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act.
- The designation of $3 million from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) budget for a state dairy feed costs survey.
- Further exploration of feasible solutions for the cash-strapped dairy farmers who paid $73 million into the DMPP in 2015 and received limited financial support in return.
Last month, NFU sent a similar request to Congress.
Sens. Leahy, Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), along with a coalition of 52 other members of Congress, reaffirmed the request to the administration, asking for any and all support from the OMB of Sec. Vilsack’s actions to support U.S. dairy farmers, while being cautious to not further stimulate overproduction.
“The last financial crisis that hit the dairy industry in 2009 forced far too many families to go out of business and sell off their herds. Through the support of this administration, we can hopefully prevent many farms from needing to make that same difficult decision today. We hope you will work with us to support all of our dairy farmers across the country,” the letter stated.
While the USDA has taken several steps within their existing authority to help dairy producers who are struggling to stay in business, Johnson explained the most meaningful relief will come from Congress providing additional authority.
“Allowing additional authority for USDA to aid in this crisis could result in direct assistance to those struggling the most. NFU remains committed to seeking meaningful financial support for family dairy producers whose livelihoods are on the line,” he concluded.