Union urges USDA to provide immediate support for US dairy farmers

The US National Farmers Union has written to US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, requesting much needed relief for US dairy farmers. The letter echoes a request made to USDA late last month by more than 60 Congressional members.

In the letter, the organization representing nearly 200,000 family farmers and ranchers urged the Secretary to use existing authority to aid dairy farmers during the difficult economic downturn that is distressing the industry.

“From California to Maine, dairy producers are struggling to cope with low prices, precipitous declines in net farm income, and a glut of dairy products within domestic and international markets,” NFU President Roger Johnson states in the letter. “It is critical that the USDA take action to alleviate, in part, the challenges that tens of thousands of struggling dairy producers face today.”

Last month, NFU established an emergency dairy planning committee to address shortcomings in the current federal dairy program and build support for a stronger safety net and emergency assistance for US dairy producers.

Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy), the federal dairy price program established in the 2014 Farm Bill, has provided very little benefit for dairy producers despite farmers heavily investing in the program, Johnson explained. “In 2015, US dairy producers paid $73 million into MPP-Dairy and only received $700,000 back from the program.”

NFU recognizes that USDA’s recent announcement to provide payments to MPP-Dairy-enrolled producers is important, but it does not accurately represent the shortfalls within dairy farmers cost of production. NFU is urging USDA to use its authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act and Section 32 of the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1935 to provide direct financial support that will protect all of our nation’s dairy farmers from further crisis.

“In the last decade, we have lost more than 18,000 dairy farms in the US and with the current milk price declines, we are seeing this unfortunate trend continue. The dairy industry has a great need for immediate action that offers market stabilization and support without further stimulating milk overproduction,” Johnson said.

NFU will continue to work with the dairy industry, Congress and USDA to propose meaningful reforms that will support dairy farms, an important segment of our nation’s economy. According to the letter, the dairy industry provides roughly $140 billion in economic output and more than 900,000 jobs in the US

“USDA projections indicate that farm revenue from milk sales will drop this year to the second lowest level in the last decade. We appreciate the steps that have been taken, but we’ve only begun to address the crisis that dairy farmers face. More can be done, and we look forward to working collaboratively with Congress and USDA for the benefit of our nation’s dairy producers,” Johnson concluded.

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