Release: Senators and Farmers Call for Dairy Crisis Help

Watch the video of the news conference here.

WASHINGTON, September 15 - The National Farmers Union and U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today backed legislation to support dairy farmers.

The Senate in August passed Sanders' amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill to provide an extra $350 million for milk price supports and to increase government purchases of surplus dairy products.

Sanders also has urged the U.S. Department of Justice to look into antitrust issues involving giant companies that dominate the dairy products market.  Sanders and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy will take part in a Judiciary Committee field hearing on antitrust issues in the dairy industry. The hearing will be on Saturday in St. Albans, Vt.

Sanders said, "These are tough times but, working together with senators from different parts of the country, we have taken some important steps to begin to address the dairy crisis. We need to look at larger structural reforms to the arcane and complicated dairy pricing system, we need to look at supply management to end the boom and bust cycle of dairy prices, and we need to launch investigations into the manipulative and anti-competitive practices of companies like Dean Foods that control more and more of the market and are forcing down the price that farmers get paid for their milk."

Leahy said, "We are going to work together to retain this important Senate funding in the appropriations bill as we move forward with the conference.  Our dairy farmers cannot stay in business with the gap between the cost of production and the milk price continuing to grow to unprecedented levels. The best long-term solution is for farmers to get a fair price for their product from the market.  I remain hopeful that dairy farmers across the country can come together and agree on a long-term solution that will help not only Vermont's dairy farms, but also those in Wisconsin, California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and everywhere in between."

Schumer said, "Rarely in history have dairy farmers been saddled with such low prices for such a long period of time. Prices will eventually rise again, but until they do -- and this crisis passes -- we must do everything possible to preserve our dairy industry.  Not only are dairy farmers the backbone of New York's rural economy, they provide the entire country a service by supplying wholesome, safe, domestically produced milk.  Dairy farmers are as tough as it gets, but the situation is extreme and beyond their control. To allow an industry that is so important to our state and our country to collapse because of temporary and extreme market fluctuations is counterproductive in the long term as it will lead to market concentration, higher prices and potentially lower quality imports.  We need action, and we need it now."

Klobuchar said, "Minnesota's farmers are at the heart of our agriculture industry.  The dairy farmers I've met with around the state are bearing the brunt of market forces beyond their control.  We must continue to fight for Minnesota's farmers during these difficult times"

Shaheen said, "It is critical that we continue to find ways to help dairy farmers profit so that they can keep their farms.  This amendment is our best opportunity to reach that goal and must be included in the conference report." 

Casey said, "Dairy farmers in Pennsylvania continue to be forced out of business by the dairy crisis," said Senator Casey. "Providing assistance and support to Pennsylvania dairy farmers is essential to not only the livelihood of family farms, but also for the Pennsylvania economy and rural communities. Addressing this crisis will be a top priority of mine on the Production, Income Protection and Price Support subcommittee."

Udall said, "Farmers in New Mexico, the west, and around the country are suffering right now from a widespread dairy crisis that is severely hurting our state and national economy.  In Western states like New Mexico --which is the 7th largest dairy producer in the nation - our dairies and our farming families need additional help to simply stay alive and I am committed to finding them the long-term solutions we need to help this critical industry."

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said "the effects of the ongoing dairy crisis are being felt across the country, leaving dairy producers both big and small struggling. We are in Washington to urge members to do all they can to provide relief."