Senators Request Appropriators to Authorize a Refund to Dairy Farmers for $73 Million Paid into the DMPP

A news release last week from Senate Ag Committee member Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) indicated that, “U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and [Gillibrand] were joined by Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Angus King Jr. (I-ME), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D- NH), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Chris S. Murphy (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kelly A. Ayotte (R-NH), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-PA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D- RI) urging federal appropriators to include funding for dairy farmers across the nation in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget. Specifically, the senators in the bipartisan letter requested appropriators to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to refund farmers for the $73 million that they paid into the Dairy Margin Protection Program (DMPP) in 2015. The senators are also calling on the committee to allow the USDA to provide emergency assistance to dairy farmers and take greater action to support dairy producers by excluding any provision preventing the USDA from implementing clause 3 of Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935 or from engaging in surplus removal and price support activities under section 5 of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act.”

A letter from the Senators to the Leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee, the lawmakers noted that, “We write to urge you provide critical assistance for our nation’s dairy farmers in appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2017.

“As you know, dairy farmers across the country are struggling to stay in business. This year alone, dairy farms in a number of states have been forced to close at alarmingly high levels. Milk prices have dropped by more than 40 percent over the past two years, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts low prices to continue for the near future. Dairy production costs continue to rise, and severe drought in some regions of the country has driven these costs up further.”

The letter added that, “We further request that $3 million within the budget of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) be designated for a survey of average feed costs by state. NASS estimates that such a survey will take 18-24 months, so it must begin this work as soon as possible in order for its results to be ready when Congress considers the next Farm Bill. Accurate information on regional variation in feed costs is critical for designing a program that better supports small and family farms in all regions of the country.

“Additionally, we ask that the Committee consider authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to refund farmers for the $73 million that they paid into the DMPP in 2015. While we understand that the price tag on this request may make this move difficult, we hope that the Committee can understand the frustration and disillusionment of cash-strapped farmers who lost thousands of dollars expecting financial support that was never provided.”

Recall that last month, the National Farmers Union sent a similar request to Congress.

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