Gillibrand proposes help for N.Y. dairy farmers

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., unveiled a proposal Tuesday to help New York’s farmers, who ar

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., unveiled a proposal Tuesday to help New York’s farmers, who are struggling with high operating costs and low milk prices.

At last check, farmers are being paid $13.33 per hundredweight for milk that costs them $17.58 per hundredweight — 11.63 gallons, the industry standard unit of measurement — to produce.

Under Gillibrand’s plan, the amount of money farmers get from the federal Milk Income Loss Contract program would double retroactively to when nationwide milk prices reached their lowest point recently — $12.68 per hundredweight in March.

The plan would also adjust the MILC payment rate — currently $16.94 —to reflect inflation, which Gillibrand said would provide a safety net to farmers.

Gillibrand said the MILC program was designed to be a safety net when there is a large price discrepancy — right now, farmers are not even receiving enough income to cover the cost of staying in business, she said.

“The current system is clearly not working for dairy farmers in New York,” Gillibrand said in a statement Tuesday. “We continue to see cycles of boom and bust in the dairy market and the safety net in place to help dairy farmers hasn’t changed in years, even though the price of milk continues to climb in the supermarket. I want to get to the bottom of this broken system and find a way to fix it.”

An increase in the payment rate is not expected to make up the gap between cost of production and market rates, but Gillibrand said it would certainly help prevent more New York farms from going out of business.

The New York State Farm Bureau released a statement applauding Gillibrand’s support of dairy farmers amid the sharp decline in demand for dairy products.

“The pricing system for milk does not do enough to recognize regional differences and demand for milk, leaving our family farmers in a very difficult precipice whenever global demand for dairy products shifts,” Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said. “Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will help farmers cope with some of the short-term immediate needs and help pay some of the bills, while she is also working on upcoming hearings about the milk marketing order system in general.”

In May, the New York Farm Bureau asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the MILC program.

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