Assemblywoman says trade tariffs will hurt St. Lawrence County farmers, calls for funding to help dairy industry
Saturday, June 9, 2018 - 5:36 pm

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, is calling for officials to fund a quality premium payment that could help stabilize New York’s dairy industry as farmers continue to struggle.

She said plans announced by Mexican officials this week to impose a 20 to 25 percent tariff on cheese exported from the United States along with Canada's plan to add a 10 percent tariff on yogurt and pizza imported from the United States in retaliation for tariffs on steel and aluminum announced by the federal administration last week will only exacerbate the challenges facing the state's dairy industry.

"As Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball testified earlier this year, our state's dairy industry is in a precarious state as our farmers have faced low prices for their product for the past four years," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

"This is just another hit to farmers that are already struggling to survive with milk prices that do not provide the revenue our farmers need to purchase and maintain their equipment, purchase feed and seed and pay their employees and taxes," she said.

Assemblywoman Jenne said state and federal officials need to take bold actions to insure the long-term viability of the dairy industry.

She said her proposal would incentivize quality milk production and allow farmers to reduce production at the same time to address over-supply and stabilize milk prices. 

Commissioner Ball testified in March the challenges facing New York dairy farmers are similar to issues facing farmers throughout the Northeast and across the nation. 

According to the USDA, milk consumption has decreased by 37 percent over the past five decades, and milk exports have decreased by 3 percent in the past four years.

Commissioner Ball said the drop in milk prices was a reflection of several different factors, including the increase in the value of the dollar compared to other currencies around the world, increased milk production in Australia, New Zealand and the European Union, and the growing market for milk purchases from China.

He cautioned at the time that discussions about renegotiating NAFTA posed another major challenge since 25 percent of U.S. dairy exports currently go to Mexico.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council reported the United States sent 8,706 metric tons of cheese to Mexico in March, approximately 2,000 metric tons more than the second highest export market, South Korea. The data also revealed $55 million in dairy products was sold to Canada in March.

U.S. dairy exports have more than quadrupled since 2000 to $5.5 billion in 2017, according to the Dairy Export Council. The five top markets are Mexico ($1.3 billion), Southeast Asia ($690 million), Canada ($636 million), China ($577 million) and Japan ($291 million). New York State reported dairy exports of $403 million in 2017 with an economic impact of $829 million. 

"Most of us would agree that changes in trade policy are needed to address trade practices of countries, such as China and Russia, which have flooded U.S. markets with low-cost products that threaten the viability of our nation's aluminum and steel production and costs thousands and thousands of jobs. But our beef is not with Canada, Mexico or the European Union," Jenne said.