Congressmen Chris Gibson (NY-19) and Joe Courtney (CT-2) introduced bipartisan legislation with original co-sponsor Congressman Peter Welch (VT-AL) to bring fairness to the federal system used to determine the price dairy farmers are paid for their milk.
The Dairy Margin Insurance Location Calculation (Dairy MILC) Act of 2016, which was introduced April 11, amends the Farm Bill to require the Secretary of Agriculture to use data from each state to calculate average feed cost and actual dairy production margins.
The current margin protection program is harmful to New York and New England dairy farms because it uses calculations based on the national average feed cost, which reflects conditions that predominate in the Midwest and elsewhere.
"Our farmers work 365 days a year to feed our country and protect the rural landscape," said Congressman Gibson, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee "Unfortunately, dairy farms across the Northeast are experiencing significant losses because the prices they're paid reflect the cost of feed in states where energy, labor, and transportation are a lot cheaper. This commonsense bill gives farm families a level playing field and a fair price for their product. I want to thank Congressmen Courtney and Welch for partnering with me in this effort. We are listening to our farmers and taking action."
"We need to do everything we can to support our small farmers and local agriculture," said Congressman Courtney. "It is unfair that dairy farmers across the Northeast, including in Connecticut, are forced to calculate their feed costs based on averages that are heavily weighted toward Midwest farming operations. The system established under the recent Farm Bill puts farming operations in our region at a competitive disadvantage, and our farmers have asked that we take action to level the playing field. I would like to thank Reps. Gibson and Welch for their support on this issue, and we intend to keep fighting until we get this change passed."
"Vermont's dairy farmers are vital to our economy and represent the best of our state," said Congressman Welch. "Too often, they are hanging on by their fingernails as they endure wild swings in milk and feed prices. This commonsense legislation improves the federal dairy insurance program so that it more accurately reflects the labor, transportation, and feed costs experienced by farmers in our region."
Bob Wellington, Senior Vice President, Economics, Communications, and Legislative Affairs for the Agrimark dairy farmer cooperative, said, "The margin protection program was established in the last Farm Bill to provide an income safety net for family dairy farms. Unfortunately, it needs some modifications to meet that goal. This bill will accomplish that."