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Legislatively Speaking
Conservation and Farm Groups Call on Congress to Address Dairy Crisis

By USDA Press Release (6/8/09)

  JUNE 8, 2009 --

Thirty-six conservation groups, farm organizations, local governments and others across the Northeast have joined together requesting that Congress and the Obama administration take quick action to address the crisis facing dairy farmers. Dairy farmers in the Northeast and around the country are facing severe and prolonged low milk prices-prices that are well below the farmers' costs of production. This sustained price slump has caused the loss of some dairy farms already and threatens the future of thousands more in the Northeast.

"Without federal action, New York and New England will continue to lose farms that produce a fresh and dependable milk supply for millions of nearby consumers," said Cris Coffin, New England Director of American Farmland Trust.

Dairy farms are the "anchor tenants" of Northeast agriculture. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, dairy farmers own or manage 3.5 million acres of land in farms in New York and New England. An additional 2.7 million acres are used for hay and corn production, much of which is used to feed dairy cows. This acreage represents 55 percent of the region's land in farms.

Gil Livingston, President of the Vermont Land Trust, said, "Dairy farmers and healthy dairy enterprises are critical to our region's economy, agrarian communities and environmental health. Because they steward millions of acres of farmland across the region, dairy farms are important allies in protecting water quality, natural communities and other important resources, and they play a role in mitigating the impacts of global warming."

Dairy farms are also a significant economic engine. The region's 7,472 dairy farms produce $3.3 billion in dairy cattle and milk sales annually. The multiplier effect of that production is significant; according to Penn State's Center for Dairy Excellence, 85 percent of a dairy farm's income is spent locally and each farm dollar recycles 2.5 times through the economy.

"Dairy farms are critical to the health of our region's economy. They purchase supplies and services from machinery dealers, veterinarians, hardware stores and other local businesses while supporting thousands of food processing jobs," said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau. "It hurts all farmers when dairy farms go out of business as it makes it more likely that these support businesses will leave the region."

The 36 groups urged Congress to provide a better federal income safety net for dairy farmers through the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. In addition, they have called on Congress to make federal funds available to dairy farms, as have been made available to other industries and businesses, to allow farmers to consolidate debt and restructure loans.

Organizations that joined on the call to Congress include:

Teri Ptacek (Agricultural Stewardship Association)
Cris Coffin (American Farmland Trust, New England Office)
David Haight (American Farmland Trust, New York Office)
Narain Schroeder (Berkshire Natural Resources Council)
Phil Korman (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)
Steve Reviczky (Connecticut Farm Bureau)
Henry Talmage (Connecticut Farmland Trust)
Eric Hammerling (Connecticut Forest and Park Association)
Gordon Gibson (Connecticut State Grange)
Lynda Brushett (Cooperative Development Institute)
Lucy Nolan (End Hunger Connecticut)
Nancy Goodman (Environmental League of Massachusetts)
Rich Hubbard (Franklin Land Trust)
Eric Grace (Genesee Valley Conservancy)
Bill Bell (Maine Association of Conservation Districts)
Jon Olson (Maine Farm Bureau)
John Piotti (Maine Farmland Trust)
Jennifer Ryan (Massachusetts Audubon Society)
Doug Gillespie (Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation)
Bernie McHugh (Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition)
Ryan Owens (Monadnock Conservancy)
Leigh Youngblood (Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust)
Maureen Knapp (New York Agricultural Land Trust)
Dean Norton (New York Farm Bureau)
Al Bettencourt (Rhode Island Farm Bureau)
Cindy Trahan-Liptak (Rutland Land Conservancy)
Kathy Orlando (Sheffield Land Trust)
Carolyn DeMoranville (Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership)
Linda Garrett (Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust)
Jeanie McIntyre (Upper Valley Land Trust)
Jackie Folsom (Vermont Farm Bureau)
Gil Livingston (Vermont Land Trust)
Robin Chesmer (Very Alive)
Terry Jones (Working Lands Alliance)
Barbara Hanley (Westport Agricultural Commission / Westport Agricultural & Open Space Trust Fund Council / Town of Westport)
Drew Shapiro (Wyoming County Department of Planning and Development)



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