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Federal lawmakers hope to save farms, farmers with new dairy policies

Payne Horning
WRVO News (file photo)
North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) talks about military and dairy issues at Fort Drum.

Members of New York’s Congressional delegation are working to provide some financial relief to dairy farmers who continue to suffer from depressed milk prices.

The downturn in the dairy industry’s prices, now in its fourth year, is taking a toll. Some farmers are losing their businesses and others are committing suicide. In response, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are looking to the next federal farm bill as a way to address the dire situation.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants to add a milk price floor that triggers payments to dairy farmers if prices fall below a certain point. According to Gillibrand, the legislation would ensure farmers are paid 45 percent of the difference between the price floor, $23.34 per hundredweight, and the current all-milk price. MPP-participating farms would be eligible for the payments on up to the first 5 million pounds of production.

Along those same lines, North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) wants to improve the Margin Protection Program, a dairy farmer insurance policy that has not yielded sufficient returns for many.

“I’ve visited dozens of dairy farmers in this district and the reason why I focused on the Margin Protection Program is to a single dairy farm it has not worked," Stefanik said. "I have not heard one instance that that program is working. So that’s a big priority for me to fix that program so it actually functions more like crop insurance."

Stefanik says another potential solution to the problem could be opening up new markets and more demand for U.S. dairy products with the renegotiation of trade agreements with other countries, like NAFTA. The Republican raised dairy issues with Canadian officials and business leaders during a recent trip over the border with a North Country delegation

New York ranks third in the nation for its dairy production with more than 4,000 dairy farms in the state.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.