Assemblywoman Russell Requests Federal Relief to Assist Dairy Farmers

North Country dairy farmers will go out of business without help
February 6, 2009

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Watertown) wrote a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting assistance for North Country dairy farmers. She asked that the federal government help New York dairy farmers and the agricultural community in the Northeast by speeding efforts to halt the decline in milk prices.

“The dairy industry is hurting in New York State’s North Country,” Assemblywoman Russell wrote in the letter. “Up to 40 Jefferson County dairy farms of all sizes are expected to go out of production this year. This will not only affect each dairy farmer, but the entire North Country economy.”

Russell said the staggering reduction in farm revenues could mean about a $90 million economic loss to Jefferson County alone, not to mention the loss to St. Lawrence County. Due to the current milk surplus, prices continue to decline at alarming rates, and some economists indicate that the current milk price is well below the cost of production.

“The picture is bleak, and quick action is needed,” Russell said. “I commend the federal government for their efforts in buying up milk surplus to assist in the stabilization of milk prices, but more must be done. I strongly urge the federal government to speed its efforts to halt this rapid decline in farm income.”

Russell also urged the federal government to unload overseas the milk products purchased through the Dairy Export Incentive Program – a subsidy that helps U.S. exporters sell nonfat dry milk, butter and cheese to foreign countries. If the government decides to unload the product in the domestic market, there is a concern that the cycle will start again – triggering another price drop.