McGovern urges USDA to provide relief to dairy farmers

  • Dairy cows at the Breezy Knoll Farm in Leyden. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Dairy cows at the Breezy Knoll Farm in Leyden. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Gazette
Published: 8/23/2017 10:01:22 PM

Federal lawmakers from Massachusetts joined other Washington legislators on Wednesday in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide dairy farmers with relief and new insurance.

The two Democratic congressmen who represent Franklin and Hampshire counties, James McGovern and Richard Neal, and U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren joined 19 others, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, in signing a letter to the USDA.

According to McGovern’s office, in the letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the members of Congress from both major parties emphasized that safety-net programs for dairy farmers, such as the Margin Protection Program, have failed to provide farmers with adequate support from price fluctuations. They urged the agriculture department to make milk an eligible commodity under the Federal Crop Insurance Program — which successfully insures farmers across the country for hundreds of different kinds of crops — and to work with USDA’s Risk Management Agency to develop new insurance products for dairy producers.

“We write today to urge the USDA to use its existing authority to provide relief to dairy farmers in New England and across the country. Dairy farmers have had to cope with double-digit price declines year over year since 2014,” wrote McGovern and 22 other members of Congress. “We urge you to utilize existing authorities to expand and enhance insurance products for dairy farmers. We request that (Risk Management Agency) work with the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. to determine milk as a distinct agricultural commodity eligible for Federal Crop Insurance coverage. Additionally, we would urge the RMA to use existing authorities to develop additional dairy insurance products.”

Farm milk prices have dropped almost 40 percent in the last few years, and dairy farmers in New England are struggling to bring in the revenues they need to stay afloat, McGovern asserts. Many New England members have also been outspoken in urging the USDA to provide emergency assistance to dairy farmers and to take greater action to support New England dairy producers.

This letter comes as part of a growing national effort led by industry and members of Congress calling on the USDA to provide more supports to struggling dairy farmers. In March, the National Farmers Union, the National Milk Producers Federation, and the American Farm Bureau Federation sent a similar letter to the USDA.

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