Action Needed To Distribute Dairy Funds

US - US Senator asks the Secretary of Agriculture for support, to bring immediate aid to the ailing dairy industry.
calendar icon 23 November 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Last week, US Senator Charles Schumer, in a personal letter, asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to expedite the distribution of the resources provided by congress to help our nation’s dairy farmers through the unprecedented dairy crisis. Senator Schumer helped secure US$290 million in direct aid as part of the Agricultural Appropriations bill recently signed by President Obama. Senator Schumer asked Mr Vilsack to ensure that the funds are distributed by year’s end, at the latest, to prevent more of New York’s family farms from going out of business.

“Congress provided this critical aid, and now we need to rush it to New York’s family dairy farmers,” said Senator Schumer. “The crisis is severe and the USDA, now that it has the money we provided, needs to take quick action. One way to expedite this aid is to simply distribute it like a MILC (milk income loss programme) payment, and I urge Secretary Vilsack to promptly pursue that option.”

An amendment providing the $290 million in direct aid (plus another $60 million in market supports) was co-sponsored by Senator Schumer and attached to the Senate’s Agriculture Appropriations bill. Senator Schumer was instrumental in building support among his colleagues for the amendment, written by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and in ensuring that the amendment was included in the final bill once the House and Senate versions were combined. The bill was signed into law on 21st October. Now, Senator Schumer is asking the USDA to expedite the distribution of this aid, saying that it should be delivered by the end of the year at the very latest.

Senator Schumer is also renewing his push to have the $290 million in direct aid distributed similar to the MILC programme. Under Senator Schumer’s plan, farmers will see the same amount of money as they would if the reimbursement rate was temporarily raised to 90 per cent. This method of distributing funds would be particularly beneficial to New York, which is characterised by smaller farms that are particularly helped by the MILC programme.

With these actions, USDA can provide a necessary lifeline to dairy producers while utilising the infrastructure of the MILC programme to more efficiently deliver these payments. Importantly, this would have all the benefits of raising the MILC reimbursement rate to 90 per cent, without having to wait for further congressional action to change the MILC programme.

The amendment, authored by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and co-sponsored by Senators from across the country, was originally included in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill but not the House Agriculture Appropriations bill. Senator Schumer and other amendment co-sponsors successfully fought for it to be included in the final bill after the House and Senate versions were reconciled.

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