Congressional Coalition Sends Letter to USDA

Lizzy Schultz

USDA_logoU.S. Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02), along with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and a bipartisan coalition of 57 other members of the House and Senate sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack last week asking for assistance for dairy producers struggling with declining milk prices.

The letter specifically asked USDA to use its authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to expand and maintain U.S. domestic markets.

“I have witnessed firsthand the struggle that dairy farmers around the country face with decreasing milk prices,” said Representative Courtney. “As milk prices have steadily declined over the last half century, Connecticut has seen its dairy industry shrink from over 800 farms to about 150 today. Reopening or starting a new dairy farm is a herculean task, which is why when one closes, more often than not, no farm will replace it. The American dairy industry is an integral part of our agriculture economy and as we face yet another milk crisis, it is more important than ever for the Department of Agriculture to lend a hand to our dairy farmers before it’s too late.”

The letter comes as milk prices have dropped 40 percent since 2014. The decrease is due to both an increase in U.S. production levels and changes in the European Union’s regulation of milk production. Farmers in vastly different dairy market regions of the United States are facing similar margin shortfalls while still adjusting to changes in federal dairy support programs from the 2014 Farm Bill.

“As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have made it my priority to support Pennsylvania dairy farmers,” said Senator Casey. “The dairy industry, which contributes more than $4 billion to our state’s agricultural economy each year, is the Commonwealth’s top agricultural sector. These farmers deserve our help in a challenging economic time, and we must do everything we can to ensure their stability and support.”

The Secretary of Agriculture has the authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to expand and maintain U.S. domestic markets, allowing the USDA to make an immediate market injection to directly and equally support struggling dairy farmers nationwide.

“Wisconsin dairy farmers work hard every day moving our economy forward, so we need to do everything we can to reward their hard work by giving them a fair shot at getting ahead,” said Senator Baldwin. “Keeping our economy strong means ensuring our rural communities and farms make it through this challenging time for the dairy industry.”

The full letter can be found here.

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