Gillibrand Seeks Emergency Funding For Dairy Farmers

U.S. Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand is continuing her fight for struggling dairy farmers statewide.

On Tuesday, Gillibrand, D-NY, announced that she is pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to authorize $300 million in immediate, emergency relief funding for the nearly 4,000 dairy farms located across New York state.

This push comes on the heels of a financial crisis experienced by New York’s milk producing enterprises, which has been exacerbated by historically low milk prices — causing farmers to operate their farms under an increasing amount of debt. This, Gillibrand said, is unacceptable and must be rectified.

“New York’s dairy farmers have been suffering for too long,” she said. “Milk prices are now so low that they (the farmers) are losing money on every pound of milk they produce, no matter how hard they work. I’m calling on the USDA to provide immediate financial assistance to milk producers. I want this emergency funding to go directly to the farmers who need it, so they can keep producing milk without going bankrupt.”

Richard Kimball, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau president, said Gillibrand’s intent is admirable but is not ultimately a long-term solution for local milk producers.

“Every little bit is always helpful but this isn’t going to be a game changer. It’s really more like a small Band-Aid,,” Kimball said. “Things have been really tough these last few years, and the amount that (Gillibrand) is talking isn’t going to be enough to cover what farmers have been losing. I think retaining our international trading partners, especially Mexico, and increasing exports would probably help a lot more.”

The USDA has the authority to provide direct financial assistance to struggling agricultural industries. This authority has been used most recently in 2016 and 2018 to support and protect cotton farmers. Through her appeal to Perdue, Gillibrand hopes to bypass the legislative process by giving farmers direct grant funding — with each farm receiving approximately $8,000 on average.

“These dairy farms are the heart and soul of our rural communities,” she said.

Gillibrand said about 1,200 dairy farms have closed in just the past decade and stressed that action must be taken prior to the passage of the next farm bill, with the current farm bill due to expire at the end of the year.