With milk prices below production costs, and other expenses, like energy, on the rise, the past year was an especially tough one for New York’s dairy farmers. Due to this crisis, the legislature passed a $30 million Dairy Assistance Program, which will allow individual dairy farmers to recoup some of their losses and, hopefully, stay in business.
To be eligible for assistance, dairy farmers must fill out applications and send those applications in to Ag and Markets, postmarked by Friday, April 27.
This Dairy Assistance Program was a direct result of the hearings the Senate and Assembly Agriculture committees held across the State in recent months to consider solutions to the crisis in the dairy industry. At these hearings, my colleagues and I heard from individual dairy farmers, from New
York Farm Bureau representatives and from many other members of the dairy industry.
We all know that the dairy industry is the backbone of Upstate rural economy, and has been for generations. And we also know the industry has had it tough lately, with extremely low milk prices and extremely high costs for fuel, feed, energy, and fertilizer last year alone.
We heard first hand that as a result of the past year, many dairy farmers incurred unprecedented losses and we learned that between 2005 and 2006, more than 460 dairy farms went out of business. For the first time, the statewide total number of dairy farms dropped to less than 6,000.
To assist dairy farmers in a time of great need and to prevent further loss in the dairy industry and its infrastructure, the Legislature crafted the Dairy Assistance Program. The program, which is tailored to help small and medium sized dairy farms the most, will distribute $30 million statewide. The state will reimburse an eligible producer for milk produced in 2006 up to 4.8 million pounds. Based on this cap and the expected rate of payment, the maximum amount a producer can receive is estimated to be approximately $16,000. The average-sized dairy farm will receive about $7000.
Payments from the State are expected to be mailed out on May 9, but applications must be postmarked by Friday, April 27. Further details on this program can be found at www.agmkt.state.ny.us, by contacting county Farm Service Agency offices or by calling the Department of Agriculture and Markets directly at (800) 554-4501.
I am pleased that the Legislature was able to create this program to stabilize this important Upstate industry and help individual family farms. But this program is only a temporary solution. The current system used to price milk needs to be fixed to guarantee that New York’s dairy farmers never face a year like last year again.
I look forward to working with dairy farmers in my district and with our federal representatives to push for the necessary changes.