Leahy, Sanders And Welch Welcome USDA Steps to Help Struggling Dairy Farmers
(WEDNESDAY, August 24, 2016) – Vermont’s Congressional Delegation – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) and Rep. Peter Welch (D) – are welcoming the “small steps” that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced to help dairy farmers coping with declining milk prices. USDA will purchase 11 million pounds of cheese from private inventories to help dairy farmers by reducing a cheese surplus, while also supplementing food shelves that serve needy families across the country.
Last month Leahy, supported by Sanders and Welch, led a bipartisan letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking USDA to take action to relieve pressures on struggling dairy farmers who are dealing with declining milk prices. Vilsack announced the cheese purchase on Tuesday, paired with an announcement that USDA will extend the deadline for dairy producers to enroll in the Margin Protection Program. Leahy is a leading member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a former chairman of the panel.
In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: “Secretary Vilsack’s announcement that the USDA will purchase $20 million in commodity cheese products in support of nutrition programs nationwide is welcome news. These are small steps, but any steps to stabilize dairy prices will help, and this action also helps address the great need for access to nutritious dairy products facing struggling families in households across the nation. We have heard from dairy farmers in Vermont facing the pressure of declining milk prices, and we will continue to fight for additional steps by USDA to support dairy farmers.”
The Margin Protection Program, established in the 2014 Farm Bill, is a risk management tool for participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and a national average for feed costs – falls below the coverage levels selected by individual farmers. Leahy and Welch helped create the program. The previous deadline for enrollment for dairy producers was September 30. The enrollment period will now be extended through December 16.
The text of the letter led by Leahy, joined by Sanders and Welch, is available online: https://www.leahy.senate.gov/download/dairy-support-letter-to-usda_july-2016. The Department of Agriculture’s news release is available here.
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David Carle: 202-224-3693
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