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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 19, 2009

SCHUMER URGES USDA TO EXPEDITE DISTRIBUTION OF CRITICAL FUNDING TO DAIRY FARMERS; RENEWS PUSH TO GIVE OUT $290 MILLION THROUGH MILC PROGRAM


Schumer Helped Deliver Almost $300 Million in Direct Aid to Nation's Dairy Farmers - Urges USDA to Distribute Aid Immediately

Schumer: If Aid Is Not Distributed Quickly, As Congress Intended, Consequences Could Be Dire

Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, in a personal letter, asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to expedite the distribution of the resources provided by congress to help our nation’s dairy farmers through the unprecedented dairy crisis.  Schumer helped secure $290 million in direct aid as part of the Agricultural Appropriations bill recently signed by President Obama.  Schumer asked Vilsack to ensure that the funds are distributed by year’s end, at the latest, to prevent more of New York’s family farms from going out of business. 

 

“Congress provided this critical aid, and now we need to rush it to New York’s family dairy farmers,” said Schumer.  “The crisis is severe and the USDA, now that it has the money we provided, needs to take quick action.  One way to expedite this aid is to simply distribute it like a MILC payment, and I urge Secretary Vilsack to promptly pursue that option.”

 

An amendment providing the $290 million in direct aid (plus another $60 million in market supports) was co-sponsored by Schumer and attached to the Senate’s Agriculture Appropriations bill.  Schumer was instrumental in building support among his colleagues for the amendment, written by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and in ensuring that the amendment was included in the final bill once the House and Senate versions were combined.  The bill was signed into law on October 21st.  Today, Schumer is asking the USDA to expedite the distribution of this aid, saying that it should be delivered by the end of the year at the very latest. 

 

Schumer is also renewing his push to have the $290 million in direct aid distributed similar to the MILC program.  Under Schumer’s plan, farmers will see the same amount of money as they would if the reimbursement rate was temporarily raised to 90%.  This method of distributing funds would be particularly beneficial to New York, which is characterized by smaller farms that are particularly helped by the MILC program.

 

With these actions, USDA can provide a necessary lifeline to dairy producers while utilizing the infrastructure of the MILC program to more efficiently deliver these payments.  Importantly, this would have all the benefits of raising the MILC reimbursement rate to 90%, without having to wait for further congressional action to change the MILC program. 

 

The amendment, authored by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and co-sponsored by Senators from across the country, was originally included in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill but not the House Agriculture Appropriations bill.  Schumer and other amendment co-sponsors successfully fought for it to be included in the final bill after the House and Senate versions were reconciled. 

 

The full letter is below:

 

 

November 19, 2009

 

The Honorable Tom Vilsack

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20250

 

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

 

I write to request that you expedite the distribution of dairy support funds allocated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the FY10 Agriculture Appropriations bill in order to bring immediate aid to the ailing dairy industry.

 

Dairy farmers in New York and across the country have been suffering from a crisis of extreme low milk prices throughout the year. The length and severity of the dairy crisis is causing great strain on dairy farmers who have incurred significant debt in the last year. While I am encouraged to see that prices have risen in recent months, the $13.80 per hundred weight received in October is still well below the cost of production for dairy farmers. Sadly, the increase in prices does not mean a return to profitability for farmers but rather that they are not losing as much money per cow as they were when prices hit a low over the summer. Many dairy farms in the North East have already gone out of business and I worry that the crushing debt incurred in the last year will force more to shut down unless they receive immediate aid.

 

Congress recognized the need to provide direct aid to dairy farmers in passing an Agriculture Appropriations bill that included $290 million in direct support to dairy farmers. While it is no silver bullet to solve the financial problems they face, this money will help farmers to endure until the market improves. I have heard from constituents so saddled with debt that they may not last another month without immediate and direct aid. Each day their debt mounts as they continue to sell their milk at prices well below the cost of production. For this reason, I ask that you work quickly to distribute these funds in a way that will bring dairy producers much needed financial relief. As I have suggested previously, distributing the money in a manner similar to the Milk Income Loss Program, which goes directly to farmers and is based on costs and levels of production, would provide farmers with the financial resources they need to survive until the industry returns to profitability

 

I appreciate the efforts USDA has taken to aid the dairy industry in this time of crisis. I am heartened to see the strong support Congress and USDA have shown for the dairy industry and look forward  working with you to protect and promote American dairy farmers. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Anne Fiala of my Washington, D.C., staff at (202) 224-6542.  Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent request.

 

 Sincerely,

 

 

 

Charles E. Schumer

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