With milk prices paid to dairy farmers lower in 2006 than 2001, Senator James L. Seward has called for invoking the Rogers-Allen Act and an emergency, over-order price on Class 1 milk. Seward is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"Dairy farmers in New York are being body-slammed by high fuel prices, high taxes, and higher energy costs at a time when the price they get for their product is lower than ever," Seward said. "The blend price for milk in 2001 was $15.12 per hundredweight and now it's about $12.76. And in 2001, fuel was about $1.48 per gallon. Their expenses rise and incomes drop. An over-order price would help stop the hemorrhaging."
Seward is urging farmers to petition the commissioner of agriculture and trigger the Rogers-Allen Act, which allows the commissioner to establish an emergency price for Class 1 milk which is higher than the federal order's price. The commissioner must also be petitioned by dairy cooperatives that represent at least 35 percent of the state's milk producers in order to keep the over-order price.
Seward said that the cost of fuel pressures a variety of expenses for dairy farmers, from fertilizer and tractor fuel to the cost of electricity for cooling milk and running milking machines. Rising taxes and fuel, among others, are pushing farmers to the financial edge.
"Farmers have contacted me to say they're at the breaking point and they're struggling to survive," Seward added. "Farms provide food, crops, open space, local economic activity, and they are significant in New York's economy, especially in our rural areas.
"Farmers need a lifeline, and a lift in their milk price would be a big help," Seward said.
In 1991, the Rogers-Allen Act provided nearly $17 million in extra income to dairy farmers.