Senators urge colleagues to shield New York's dairy farms from wide price fluctuations
Friday, December 14, 2012 - 9:10 am

New York’s two U.S. senators are urging their colleagues to shield New York’s dairy farms from wide price fluctuations that could result from the expiration of existing price protections.

Sen. Charles Schumer is calling it the “dairy cliff”: if the House of Representatives does not approve the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill by the end of the year, the law on dairy prices would revert to the law from the 1940s, possibly allowing the price of fluid milk to double, which would result in plummeting demand from milk buyers.

Schumer also called on the House to temporarily bring back the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program for over 5,400 dairy farms in Upstate New York, to bridge the gap before a new margin protection program can be rolled out. MILC, which provided over $41 million to New York dairy farmers in 2012 before it expired on Sept. 30, was the primary safety net that compensated dairy producers when milk prices fluctuated and cow feed costs jumped, as they have due to this year’s drought.

Meanwhile Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has teamed up with Sen. Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, to urge the leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee to keep a key dairy pricing reform amendment in any final Farm Bill agreement.

The Snowe-Gillibrand amendment that was included in the Senate Farm Bill would help bring certainty for the nation’s dairy farmers by stabilizing milk pricing. That provision passed the full Senate as part of its 2012 Farm Bill.

“For years, New York’s dairy farms have endured volatility in the market – as feed and fuel costs rise, the price of milk plummeted,” said Gillibrand, New York’s first member of the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “When our family farms suffer, our whole state and whole economy suffer. Our bipartisan amendment is a strong step to give farmers a better, more just pricing system that they deserve, and it must be part of any final Farm Bill.”

“The ‘dairy cliff’ is fast approaching, and without a House Farm Bill before year’s end, it will be consumers and dairy producers alike that go over the edge,” said Schumer. “On January 1st, families across Upstate New York could start to see over a hundred-percent increase in the price of milk at the supermarket, all while dairy farmers would lose important assistance from the feds that helps combat an unstable market and devastatingly high feed prices. What’s worse, is that this is an entirely avoidable and unnecessary burden on families, schools and farmers alike, and it could be easily addressed. All the leaders of the House of Representatives must do is put the bipartisan Senate Farm Bill on the floor for a vote, and I’m sure that it will pass.”

Schumer continued, “It is unacceptable to have allowed the Farm Bill to expire in September. Now, time is ticking and the House must pass the Senate Farm bill so we can all avoid crying over spilled milk.”