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Congresswoman Elise Stefanik

Representing the 21st District of New York

Reps. Stefanik, Tenney, Faso, Reed, Katko, Collins: Reform the Farm Bill to Help Upstate Dairy Farmers

July 18, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC- Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) is calling for reforms to the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) in the Fiscal Year 2018 Farm Bill. In a letter to Rep. Mike Conaway, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Stefanik joined New York Reps. Claudia Tenney (NY-22), John Faso (NY-19), Tom Reed (NY-23) John Katko (NY-24) and Chris Collins (NY-27) in requesting reforms to the 2018 Farm Bill that would make programs more effective for family farmers in upstate New York.

Although the MPP-Dairy program is fairly new, it has underperformed for the farmers of New York State in its first two years. Throughout the nation, dairy producers paid millions of dollars in premium payments, but received very little return on their investments.  Important reforms to the MPP-Dairy program include reducing premium rates, and providing a viable safety net for dairy farmers in the coming years.

“As we work toward the next Farm Bill, I will continue to fight for the priorities of our North Country farmers,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “Dairy is critical to our agriculture economy and I am pleased to join my colleagues on this important push to support our local farmers.”

“In the 22nd District, family farmers are the backbone of our communities and economy,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “That’s why I’m working to ensure that our policies help family farmers grow and compete. Excessive premiums in the MPP-Dairy program only hurt small and medium sized farmers. Reforming the MPP-Dairy program will make the program more effective and affordable for dairy farmers throughout upstate.”

“The dairy industry is vitally important to Upstate economies and the people across the country who consume dairy products on a daily basis. The Dairy Margin Protection Program, while well-intentioned, is in need of reforms that will make it more usable for farmers. As we consider the 2018 Farm Bill we must also consider programs like this and the need for reforms to better serve our nation’s dairy farmers,” said Congressman Faso.

 “Hardworking farmers across Upstate New York deserve to compete on an even playing field. I am happy to join with others in the New York delegation in calling for reforms to the MPP-Dairy program. New York dairy farmers deserve to benefit from their investment in this program,” said Congressman Reed.

“Central New York’s vast dairy industry is vital to our local economy, and I’m committed to fighting for policies that will ensure small, family farms can grow and thrive,” said Congressman Katko. “As the House begins its work on the Farm Bill, I’ve joined with my colleagues from across the region to highlight the need to improve MPP-Dairy and ensure this program is affordable and efficient for small family farms in New York State.”

“All stakeholders know that reforms need to be made to the MPP, and the dairy farmers in Western New York deserve a workable program that aids in their success. We look forward to working with Chairman Conaway and the Agriculture committee to find a solution that makes this program more effective and affordable,” said Congressman Collins.

As the fourth largest milk-producing state in the nation, local economies throughout New York rely heavily on the nearly 5,000 family owned dairy farms. Local farms provide a number of jobs that help to stabilize rural upstate communities, while making significant impacts on the national agricultural and food manufacturing industry.

The full text of the letter can be found below.

07/14/2017

The Honorable Mike Conaway

Chairman

House Committee on Agriculture
1301 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Conaway:

            As members of Congress representing Upstate New York’s dairy industry, we thank you for your early start to the 2018 Farm Bill process and we are grateful for your efforts to complete the Farm Bill on time.  We appreciate you being a steadfast advocate for rural America by pointing out that agriculture has contributed significantly to deficit reduction, and that should be accounted for during work on the new Farm Bill.

            New York is the fourth largest milk-producing state in the nation, and in some years has been the third.  Upstate New York includes nearly 5,000 family-owned dairy farms totaling more than 600,000 cows that produce roughly seven percent of the U.S. milk supply on an annual basis.  These family farmers are the lifeblood of many of the communities we represent and the fresh milk they produce supports many jobs in the agricultural and food manufacturing sectors of our economy.

            As you know, the dairy industry in New York and nationwide has faced significant struggles in recent years.  Our current trade challenges with Canada are particularly acute in Upstate New York, a major manufacturer of ultrafiltered milk, and our producers continue to struggle with labor costs and challenges.  Moreover, milk prices deteriorated significantly last year, causing dairy farmers added pain during an already challenging climate.

            Against this backdrop, a top priority for all of us in the Farm Bill will be reforming the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy).  While this program is fairly new, it has not performed to the expectations of our dairy farmers.  In 2015 and 2016, the first two years of the program, dairy producers paid millions of dollars in premium payments but received very little return on this investment, even though last year was a very difficult year for our dairy farmers by all accounts.

            Therefore, we are eager to work with you to improve MPP-Dairy to make it more effective and affordable for dairy farmers.  We understand that the program's current formula does not fully reflect producer costs, so we are interested in improving the program to better reflect the margins and challenges producers face to provide them a viable safety net for the coming years.  We are also interested in looking carefully at the premium rates in MPP-Dairy, especially given the disparity between what producers have paid in and what they have received even during difficult years.  Reducing some of the premium rates, especially those targeted to small and medium-sized farmers, could be an important step in helping farmers to better afford more meaningful coverage.

            We recognize that there will be budgetary limitations in the Farm Bill process, as there always are, and we stand ready to work with you to craft a Farm Bill that supports all of rural America.  For us in rural Upstate New York, dairy farming is one of the most dominant sectors of our region, so a healthier dairy industry means a stronger economy.

            Thank you for your consideration.  We are eager to work with you.

Sincerely,

Rep. Claudia Tenney

Rep. Elise Stefanik

Rep. John Faso

Rep. John Katko                                                                  

Rep. Chris Collins

Rep. Tom Reed

                                                  

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