PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says she has a plan that would overhaul the milk-pricing system and provide fair, competitive pricing for New York dairy farmers.
"Our dairy farmers are facing a real crisis, and we simply cannot wait until the Farm Bill to find solutions," she said.
"We need to address this crisis now."
Gillibrand (D-NY) spoke with farmers at six agricultural listening sessions across the state in recent months to prepare for the 2012 Farm Bill.
From those meetings, she culled a comprehensive plan to provide immediate support for farmers.
The cornerstone of Gillibrand's idea is to overhaul the milk-pricing system and make it more transparent.
Farmers often find themselves paying more to produce their product than they make from selling it.
Gillibrand is also working to prevent pending cuts to the federal Milk Income Loss Contract program, bolster New York's dairy exports, improve cold-storage-inventory reporting standards to stabilize dairy trading prices and arm dairy farmers with more of the tools and information they need to thrive.
New York state has lost 23 percent of its dairy farms in the past five years. As of 2007, the state had nearly 5,700 farms, down from nearly 7,400 in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The North Country had 1,050 dairy farms as of 2007, down from nearly 1,500 in 2002, for a drop of about 39 percent.
Gillibrand said preventing cuts to the Milk Income Loss program, which are set to take effect on Sept. 2, 2012, is critical.
The program was designed in 2008 to be a safety net when prices fall below $16.94 per hundredweight.
But because of the high costs of feed and fuel, dairy farmers are not receiving enough income to cover the cost of staying in business.
The Milk Income reimbursement rate is set to decrease from 45 to 35 percent of the difference between the $16.94 trigger price and the actual Class 1 Boston price.
"New York is home to the hardest-working farm families and the finest dairy products in the world, but outdated regulations, broken pricing structures and a bad economy are hurting our dairy farmers, and farming communities across the state," Gillibrand said in a statement.
"We need to act now to support New York's dairy farms."
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