State Senator James L. Seward, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said today that checks averaging $5,000 each are in the mail to provide relief to nearly 5,100 strapped dairy farmers across New York State, thanks to a $30 million dairy assistance program that was spearheaded and championed by the state senate Republican majority in the 2007-2008 state budget.
Applications are still being accepted for eligible dairy farms. Interested applicants should contact the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets by visiting their website at http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us or calling 1-800-554-4501.
"This is the first dairy program of its kind in the history of New York State," said Senator Seward. "The checks, hitting mailboxes this week, come at a critical time for New York’s dairy farmers, just in time for spring planting. I’m thrilled that the senate was successful in its fight for $30 million in direct assistance."
"The dairy industry serves as the backbone of the upstate economy and the economic impacts of our $3 billion industry ripples through a large number of local economies across New York," said John W. Lincoln, President, New York Farm Bureau. "This considerable investment in the dairy industry will go a long way in helping to financially strengthen dairy farms in a time of extremely low commodity prices and very high energy and livestock feed prices. Moreover, this major investment in the dairy industry will also be felt by the many businesses in our rural communities that support the farm industry. Quite simply, this investment is a win-win for upstate New York."
"When the dairy industry is on the verge of collapse, the New York State Senate answered the call with immediate help for our farmers," said Seward. "Dairy farming is important to our food supply and to our economy in our upstate, rural areas. Farmers provide food, maintain open space as stewards of their land, and help our economy in many different ways. The financial aid won by the senate in this year's budget is a step toward helping our farmers get back on their feet."
As part of this year’s budget negotiations the senate majority successfully fought to secure the $30 million in funding to provide direct and immediate financial relief to New York's beleaguered dairy industry. In contrast, the original proposals advanced by Governor Spitzer and the state assembly provided no financial assistance package for dairy farmers.
The state budget established a new dairy assistance program within the New York State Department of Agriculture. The program, which is similar to an initiative used in the State of Vermont, pays eligible farmers the difference between target prices established by the Agriculture Commissioner and the combined Northeast Federal Order Statistical Uniform Price, plus the amount of the Milk Income Loss Contract X payment rate on a per-hundredweight basis.
Nearly 5,100 dairy producers, representing approximately 90 percent of eligible dairy farms, will receive payments from the state in the form of a separate check based on pounds of milk produced during the 2006 calendar year.
Dairy farming is a vital part of the fabric of the state's rural communities, generating tens of thousands of jobs both on and off farms, and productively employing millions of acres of farmland. Unfortunately, high fuel and feed costs, labor shortages and flooding have created a "perfect storm" scenario that has had a devastating economic impact on many milk producers. In addition, low milk prices, an outdated price control system administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the escalating cost of running a family farm have resulted in unprecedented losses for dairy farms across the state.