WASHINGTON, July 29 - Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Bernie Sanders, and 11 other senators sat down Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to discuss how to accomplish a prompt boost in USDA’s floor price for purchasing dairy products, as a catalyst to help stabilize plummeting milk prices.
Congress has granted USDA the discretionary authority to do that. Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was joined by 21 other senators in sending a letter on July 15 to Vilsack asking him to use that authority. In the letter, the senators said a temporary increase in USDA dairy price supports can help “restore a meaningful safety net for America’s farmers.”
“We confirmed that we have an ally in Secretary Vilsack,” Leahy said after the meeting. “He understands the hardship that is gripping dairy farmers in Vermont and from coast to coast. There are obstacles to getting this done, but this was a strategy meeting, not just a discussion. We will work together to continue to build support for this. He also understands the need to act without delay.”
Sanders said, “Dairy farmers in Vermont are today facing a severe crisis, suffering from the lowest milk prices in nearly 40 years. It is imperative that we look at every possible approach to address this crisis, including a strong demand that the Secretary of Agriculture raise the dairy support price. If dairy farmers do not receive a fair price for their product, we will continue to lose farms which will be a disaster not only for the agricultural community but for the economy of the state and all of our people.”