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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, the dairy farmers in Pennsylvania and the Nation are receiving record low prices for their products, prices that we have not seen since the late 1970s.
From January through June of this year, the price received by farmers was 37 percent below that of a year earlier. Feed costs, by comparison, have fallen by 11 percent. In this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects the all-milk price to average between $11.85 per hundredweight and $12.15 per hundredweight, down from $18.29 last year, and 18 to 20 percent below the 10-year average.
Exports, which have driven much of the recent growth in the dairy industry, have fallen from 11 percent of production last year. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, these losses are translated into losses as high as $1,000 per cow per year, so that a farmer milking 100 cows will lose as much as $100,000 this year.
This amendment provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture with $350 million in additional funds to enable it to increase the level at which the government buys surplus dairy products off the market.
This funding would allow the Secretary to raise the support price on three different types of dairy products. That is a brief statistical summary of the problems which the dairy farmers are facing, not only in the my State, Pennsylvania, but across the country.
I recently convened a session in my office to hear in some detail the plight of the dairy farmers. I have traveled the State. Before August is finished, I will have visited all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, which is a practice I make, covering virtually every county every year.
I have seen firsthand the desperate plight of the farmers of our State. We had been considering a number of amendments to this bill, but they have been ruled not germane. For those who may be watching this program--this session; it is really a program, but it is a session of the Senate--that means technically we could not offer other legislation.
But I compliment the distinguished Senator from Vermont who has structured this amendment in a way which will enable the Department of Agriculture to meet this pressing problem.
Recently about a dozen Senators met with the Secretary of Agriculture, and the conclusion was that the Department of Agriculture, the Obama administration, wanted to help farmers by raising price supports, but they lacked the money to do so. So this amendment, if adopted--and I urge my colleagues to adopt it--and there is pretty widespread concern about milk prices covering virtually every section of the United States. I urge my colleagues to adopt this amendment to give some very much needed relief to the dairy farmers.
I yield the floor.
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