Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, wants the state to explore a more effective means of adjusting to low milk prices that have hurt the dairy industry for the last few years.
Ms. Jenne appeared before New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball during a budget hearing this week to propose potential changes, such as offering premium payments to help stabilize the industry.
Back in January, dairy experts estimated that milk prices would once again decrease this year, potentially $1.55 per hundredweight from 2017. Because it is becoming more difficult for the United States to export its milk products, dairy farmers are facing dire financial stress.
Ms. Jenne said the U.S. needs to meet the same quality standards used by other milk-producing countries in Europe to increase exports. She noted that the state should decrease the somatic cell count in fluid milk (somatic cells lead to lower yields and low-quality milk) from the federally-mandated 750,000 cells per milliliter to 400,000 cells per milliliter, which is the European standard.
“New York’s exports of dairy products are down. In order to compete and get our dairy products to overseas markets, we have to meet or exceed the global industry standard,” Ms. Jenne said. “Most farmers already meet this standard, but statewide adoption of this standard could help address our oversupply and resulting low payments to farmers.”
To help meet this reduction in somatic cells, Ms. Jenne proposed a state-funded premium payment to farmers that would be capped at up to $3 per hundredweight of milk. The premium would be paid only for the five-year monthly average of milk produced by the farm.
“It’s not going to make a farmer rich, but it would give them a fighting chance to get their finances in order and make strategic decisions instead of ones that will hurt them in the long run,” Ms. Jenne said.
Additionally, Ms. Jenne said farmers should be able to utilize state grant funding to partially pay for professional services and partially for revamping farm operations to provide long-term financial viability.
“No grant program exists to address these needs, and the solution doesn’t fit within the current council process,” she aid. “We need to designate up to $100 million toward the largest sector of the state’s economy, agriculture. If our farms are failing financially, so are the majority of the other local businesses in upstate communities because they aren’t getting paid.”
By: BRIAN MOLONGOSKI
Source: WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES