Congress urges USDA to support farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, co-founder of the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus, on Tuesday was among the signers of a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue, urging the USDA to support dairy farmers facing an economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dairy farmers need support immediately,” The members of Congress wrote. “We urge you (Secretary Purdue) to use your authority to provide support directly to producers. The C.A.R.E.S. Act provides the USDA with $9.5 billion to assist producers and specifically cites dairy in the statutory language. We ask that you take immediate action to support this critical industry.”
Specifically, the letter urges USDA to use tools available to it to help dairy producers, such as:
• Paying food producers to reduce production.
• Compensating dairy farmers for milk that must be dumped.
• Providing capital for processors to expand their capacity and increase their inventory.
• Purchasing dairy products for food banks.
• Reopening the Dairy Margin Coverage Program and providing retroactive coverage.
• Working to increase international food aid.
“Dairy farms are the backbone of rural economies across the country,” the letter states. “Dairy farmers continue to put themselves at risk by working around the clock to provide products to consumers during this difficult time. However, the dairy industry is now facing unprecedented and extensive economic damage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The foodservice market has collapsed overnight due to closures of schools and restaurants, and export disruptions are harming milk powder demand. The decrease in demand for finished products has caused processing plants to curtail or cease operations and cancel fluid milk orders. Farmers are being forced to dump milk and milk prices are plummeting. Dairy farmers have already seen losses of more than $5.7 billion due to this crisis.

“We ask that you use as many tools as possible, as quickly as possible, to address this crisis in the dairy industry.”
The full letter is available with this story online at addisonindependent. com.
In addition to Welch 14 other Representatives signed the letter, including all of the bipartisan co- chairs of the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus.

The Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus is a bipartisan organization launched in 2009 by Welch and more than 50 other members of Congress to ensure that critical issues confronting the American dairy farmer are understood in Congress.


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