North Country Assemblywoman says dairy industry prices hurting rural economy
Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - 11:34 am

A North Country Assemblywoman said at a dairy conference in Albany the effect of low milk prices is rippling through the rural economy, dragging it down.

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, said a day spent at a dairy summit in Albany demonstrated her proposal to address the crisis facing farmers in New York State is in line with other plans being proposed across the country.

Jenne spent Monday in Albany listening to farmers from the North Country and around the state, and from neighboring states and Canada, talk about possible solutions to the crisis impacting their bottom linea.

Jenne represents the Assembly’s “River District,” the 116th, which includes all St. Lawrence County towns along the St. Lawrence River (Massena, Ogdensburg, Louisville, Waddington, Lisbon, Oswegatchie, Morristown, and Hammond) plus the towns of Canton, Potsdam, Rossie, Macomb, and DePeyster, and part of Jefferson County.

The summit featured farmers, some travelling to Albany from as far away as California and Wisconsin, other policy makers, and industry leaders discussing the dairy crisis and looking at solutions to save an important component of the North Country economy. Agri-Mark organized an open dairy meeting to discuss steps that can be taken to increase farm milk prices and net farm incomes.

Jenne is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reallocate funds from the state's economic development programs to support dairy farmers suffering from four years of low fluid milk prices that are well below the cost of production.

Her proposal calls for providing premium payments to farmers who produce high-quality milk when the price of fluid milk falls below $18 per hundredweight.

She said her proposal - much like the other proposals that were discussed Monday - sets a price floor and also addresses supply reductions and base excesses.

"It also addresses our oversupply problems as well as our global competitiveness," she noted.

Jenne said the challenges facing the dairy industry are starting to be felt upstate.

"The first impact we are seeing is the ripple effect in our local economies. After months and months of milk checks that don't meet the cost of production, we are seeing farmers that don't have the cash flow to pay their feed suppliers, their fuel suppliers, their veterinarians, their nutritionists and their other suppliers. That ripples down as the suppliers of those services then struggle to pay their bills," she noted.

"It is a ripple effect that is holding back our upstate economy. It's the largest sector of the upstate economy so it is important that it stays healthy so everything else in our region can grow," the assemblywoman added.

She reiterated her call for the governor to allocate $100 million from the state's economic development fund to assist struggling farmers across the state.

Jenne said it has not been easy convincing state leaders of the seriousness of the crisis facing the dairy industry.

"I've actually been told by officials from the executive branch that no farmers have come down here telling us there is a problem so it must not be as bad as they say it is. Guess what. The farmers were in Albany by the hundreds on Monday saying there is a problem," the assemblywoman pointed out.

She noted that farmers who are struggling financially are caring for their animals and working their fields and are unable to make repeated trips to Albany to lobby for assistance.

"I was struck by the absurdity of the comments that were made to me. I knew I was dealing with people that had no understanding of the dairy industry. To think that farmers would be able to leave the work on their farms in droves shows that they’re out of touch with reality," she said.

"Agriculture is the cornerstone of the upstate economy, and its spinoff effects are huge. All the things I heard yesterday have only strengthened my resolve to get assistance for our farmers in New York State. I will continue fighting for them," Assemblywoman Jenne said.