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Public Statements

Letter to The Honorable Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

Leahy Builds Coalition Urging Temporary Boost In Dairy Price Supports

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has organized a multi-regional Senate coalition to support a significant short-term hike in the floor price the federal government pays for milk and dairy products. Leahy said that significantly raising the floor price would help reverse the plummeting milk prices that are threatening family farms in Vermont and across the nation.

Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, asked Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, to join him in heading a letter sent Wednesday to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to temporarily raise the price the government pays to buy surplus milk. Congress has granted USDA the discretionary authority to do that.

Twenty other senators signed the request - a coalition representing key states in the Northeast, Midwest and West with sizable dairy farming industries. Those signing include Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Leahy's letter to Vilsack urges the increase in Dairy Price Supports for dairy products "to restore a meaningful safety net for America's dairy farmers."

The text of the Leahy-Kohl letter follows:

July 15, 2009

The Honorable Thomas Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We are writing to request your immediate attention to the current crisis in the dairy sector.

As you know, America's dairy producers are facing the worst prices in nearly 30 years. Dairy farmers from every region of the country are losing money each month which is jeopardizing the long term stability of the industry and the livelihood of thousands of our rural communities. We appreciate your actions to implement the Dairy Export Incentives Program and your recent comments supporting additional lending opportunities for dairy producers. Despite those welcome actions, we believe more aggressive action is needed to halt the current crisis.

As you know, Congress in Section 1501 of the enacted 2008 Farm Bill (P.L. 110-246) updated the Dairy Price Support program to set price floors under individual dairy products (butter, cheese and non-fat dry milk). While specific prices at which USDA is mandated to purchase product were included in the legislation, Congress clearly gave the Department the authority to increase the purchase prices if necessary. We are therefore urging you to temporarily increase the Dairy Price Support program products purchases by a significant level to restore a meaningful safety net for America's dairy farmers.

We believe bold and swift action to increase the purchase prices under the Dairy Price Support program is needed to avert a further crisis. During January through April this year, the U.S. all-milk price has averaged $4.80 per cwt. below the U.S. average cash cost of production. And in the months since, dairy farmers have continued to lose significant equity. A meaningful but temporary increase the Dairy Price Support program will begin to restore farm level prices and help restore producers' ability to produce basic cash flow for their operations during these difficult financial times.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this issue. We look forward to working with you to support America's dairy producers.

Sincerely,

Senator Patrick Leahy Senator Herb Kohl
Senator Russ Feingold Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Charles Schumer Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Patty Murray Senator Tim Johnson
Senator Carl Levin Senator Robert Casey
Senator Arlen Specter Senator Kristen Gillibrand
Senator Barbara Boxer Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Chris Dodd Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Debbie Stabenow Senator Jack Reed
Senator Tom Udall Senator Al Franken


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