WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 - As dairy farmers struggle to cope with rising production costs driven up during this summer's severe drought, a bipartisan group of senators from leading dairy states today asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review the floor price for raw milk.
"Our domestic food supply is being severely challenged by this year's prolonged drought," said a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking for a review of USDA milk marketing orders. The letter was written by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Olympia Snowe (R-Me.), Susan Collins (R-Me.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.).
"Since June, the cost of corn and other components of feed have risen dramatically,' the letter continued. "Corn reserves have plummeted to a 15-year low. As we face this climate crisis, a consideration of the effects on milk prices would seem to be in order."
The cost of grain for dairy farmers has skyrocketed as a result of supply shortages caused by the worst U.S. drought in at least 50 years. Almost 1,600 counties in 32 states have been declared natural disaster areas after drought seared millions of acres of pasture and cropland across the United States.
"At a time when farmers' costs are soaring because of the high price of grain, I am glad that we have bipartisan support for hard-pressed dairy farmers in this letter to Secretary Vilsack," Sanders said. "The letter demands that he investigate whether farmers can continue to stay in business at the milk price floor now set by the federal government," Sanders added.
Federal milk marketing orders are administered by the Agriculture Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The orders establish minimum pricing rules in 10 regions throughout the United States (except in California) for the sale of raw fluid-grade (Grade A) milk from the producer to the processor or manufacturer.
Created by Congress in 1937, the program sets monthly minimum prices that the milk handlers must pay. The prices that producers actually receive may be higher, depending on market conditions.
To read the letter, click here.