Dairy is the leading agricultural commodity and pillar of New York State's economy, creating approximately $1.9 billion in receipts. New York is the third largest dairy producing state in the country. I value the importance of this industry to our state's economy and am committed to keeping our dairy farm families going strong.
I have again supported legislation to extend the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program. In order to protect New York dairy farmers in times of fluctuating prices, I am fighting to extend the Program's deadline, which is set to expire in August 2007. In the coming months, I am looking to introduce legislation that will increase coverage of NYS farmers to over 85% by raising the current annual production cap from 2.4 million pounds to 4.8 million pounds. Since the program's inception, New York producers have received approximately $186.2 million in total MILC payments that go to keeping a strong domestic milk supply in operation.
I will continue to work towards protecting our nation's milk and cheese. Once again, I am proud to co-sponsor The Quality Cheese Act, which aims to prevent the inclusion of dry ultrafiltered milk, milk protein concentrates (MPCs), or casein as ingredients in natural domestic cheese. The Quality Cheese Act is a proactive step to guarantee accurate labeling of cheese made from real milk obtained from cows grown in the US. This legislation ensures that cheese labeled domestic and natural is of the high quality that Americans have come to expect; while at the same time protects US milk from being displaced by cheap foreign substitutes.