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Public Statements

Letter to Chairman, and Ranking Members of the Senate and House of Representatives Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

With More Family Farms on Brink, Bennet, Udall, Markey Push for Much-Needed Relief for Colorado's Dairy Producers

In Letter to Committee Leaders, Bennet and Udall Urge Inclusion of Senate-Passed Funding to Provide $350 Million in Relief for Dairy Farmers

Ask for ‘Strong Leadership' on Behalf of Dairy Farmers Facing Plummeting Commodity Prices and Tightening Credit

With Colorado's dairy producers caught between a credit crunch and sinking commodity prices, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, U.S. Senators for Colorado, and Congresswoman Betsy Markey urged leaders in both the House and Senate to preserve funding that would provide $350 million in emergency relief and assistance for struggling dairy farmers in Colorado and across the country.

The relief for dairy farmers was approved last month as part of the Agriculture Appropriations Act of 2010 through a bipartisan amendment cosponsored by Senators Bennet and Udall, with support from the National Farmers Union, Dairy Farmers of America, the National Milk Producers Federation and Western United Dairymen.

In a letter to House and Senate Agriculture appropriators, Bennet and Udall asked that the $350 million in funding approved by the Senate be retained in the final bill to help struggling dairy farmers and hasten a recovery in the dairy sector.

"Colorado's dairy farmers are facing some of the lowest milk prices we've seen in years, and it's having a serious impact on our family farmers. Coupled with the lagging economy and credit crunch, our farmers are hurting, and they need relief," Senator Udall said. "The Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill included resources I was proud to fight for to help dairy farmers make it through hard times. We still have an opportunity to get this lifeline in the final version of the bill, and I urge my colleagues to include it."

"Between sinking prices for their product and a continuing credit crunch, Colorado's dairy industry is struggling and needs some help," said Bennet. "With some farmers already declaring bankruptcy and more expected to follow suit, it's critical that we get this much-needed relief in the final version of this bill. Colorado's dairy producers need assistance to help them weather the storm, and they need it as soon as possible."

"From my first days in Congress, I have been fighting for Colorado's dairy farmers," said Rep. Markey. "With dairy prices continuing to drop and a lending crisis sending shockwaves throughout our state, it's critical that we do everything we can to support and strengthen Colorado's dairy farmers, and I will continue to lead that charge in the House."

The increase in the Farm Service Agency budget to more than $1.6 billion would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to raise the support price for nonfat dry milk from $.92 per pound to $.97 per pound.

The full text of the letter sent by Bennet and Udall is included below:

The Honorable Herb Kohl
Chairman
Subcommittee on Agriculture,
Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United Stated Senate

The Honorable Sam Brownback
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Agriculture,
Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United Stated Senate

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Chair
Subcommittee on Agriculture,
Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Jack Kingston
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Agriculture,
Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives

Dear Chairman Kohl, Chair DeLauro, Ranking Members Brownback and Kingston:

We are writing to request your support during the Conference Committee on the FY10 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for the $350 million Sanders-Udall (NM)-Schumer-McCaskill-Franken-Bennet dairy amendment adopted by a recorded vote on the Senate floor on August 4. The 60 bipartisan votes this amendment received from every region of the country signaled the Senate's clear and strong commitment to helping our nation's struggling dairy industry.

We know that you are well aware of the crises currently impacting the U.S. dairy sector. Farm milk prices have plummeted over 40% since early this year, which has caused severe economic pain to dairy farmers all across the country. The costs of production far surpass the prices farmers receive for their products. The problem of low milk prices has not been confined to any one region of the country, and has been felt by dairy producers both large and small with related impacts felt throughout our rural economies. For example, feed and implement dealers and other suppliers of services to dairy farmers are also feeling the effects of these low farm milk prices as farmers' ability to pay for these products and services has dwindled.

America needs a strong, diverse dairy industry to feed our nation and keep rural communities thriving. If retained in the final Agriculture Appropriations Conference Report, the funds provided by this amendment can be utilized by Secretary Vilsack to provide relief to America's dairy industry. These funds are crucial to helping hasten the recovery of farm milk prices this fall.

We would greatly appreciate your support in retaining this additional $350 million to provide assistance to America's dairy farmers in the final Agriculture Appropriations Conference Report. Thank you again for your strong leadership on behalf of America's dairy farmers and for your consideration of our request.


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