Seward & Lopez Make Plea For Struggling Farmers

Call on governor to release $60 million for emergency dairy relief
August 3, 2009
ONEONTA, 07/31/09 -- State Senator James L. Seward (R/C/I - Oneonta) and Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R/C/I - Schoharie) are calling on the governor to release a minimum of $60 million in federal stimulus funds to save New York farms.

"Milk prices are dropping and many of our dairy farmers are at the brink," said Senator Seward. "We need to take immediate steps to protect our number one industry, or many small family run farmers will be forced out of business."

Seward and Lopez have written the governor, asking him to appropriate a minimum of $60 million in unclaimed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money to assist farmers in the short term.

"While Washington bailed out AIG and other Wall Street businesses and provided hundreds of millions in increased social services funding, dairy farmers across the nation and right here in New York state continued to suffer," said Assemblyman Lopez. "Many dairy farmers are literally selling the farm. Something needs to be done in order to protect this vital industry."

Seward and Lopez met with dairy farmers and other agribusiness leaders in Schoharie County recently and heard their plight firsthand. Dairy farmers in New York received an average of $11.50 per hundredweight of milk sold during June, down 40 cents from May and $7.40 below June a year ago. A study by Cornell University estimated that farmers need to be paid at least $17.00 per hundredweight in order to meet their production costs.

In 2006, Seward and Lopez led the fight to create the Dairy Investment Act which provided $30 million in immediate financial assistance to struggling farmers. The funds served as a lifeline to New York's dairy farmers, and helped stabilize other sectors of the upstate economy dependent on agriculture.

"The price farmers are receiving for their milk has dropped to 1970s levels, while taxes, fuel prices and other production costs have skyrocketed," Seward added. "I am encouraged by federal proposals under consideration to fix the archaic milk pricing system, but if we don't take action now, many of our farmers won't be around to experience the changes."

The complete letter from Senator Seward and Assemblyman Lopez to Governor Paterson is below.

July 31, 2009

The Honorable David A. Paterson
Executive Chamber
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

We are writing to urge you to allocate a minimum of $60 million pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to assist dairy farmers who are struggling with record low milk prices.

As you may know, dairy farmers are currently facing a crisis of a magnitude we have not seen in quite some time. Dairy farmers are struggling with low milk prices, high taxes, increasing fuel and energy costs, and rising costs of production. To put the crisis in perspective, one dairy farmer who recently called my office referred to the current crisis as the “Dairy Katrina.”

Dairy farmers in New York are extremely valuable to the state’s economy, as agriculture is New York’s number one industry. We have already witnessed the loss of a significant number of dairy farms over the last several years. If we do not take immediate action to provide financial assistance to farmers, we are greatly concerned that more families will be forced out of the farming business.

In 2006, at my urging and those of my colleagues in the Senate Majority Conference, the Dairy Investment Act was included in the state budget, which provided $30 million in immediate financial assistance to struggling farmers. The program was highly successful and gave dairy farmers the “shot in the arm” that they needed in order to stay afloat.

While we understand that the price of milk paid to farmers is set by the federal government and, thus, any long-term solution should be contemplated at the federal level, we believe that a quick fix is warranted. Thus, we would ask that you consider allocating a minimum of $60 million in federal ARRA funding to provide this desperately-needed relief.


State Senator
51st Senatorial District

State Assemblyman
127th Assembly District