President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed legislation to provide $350 million in emergency assistance for hard-pressed dairy farmers. Senator Bernie Sanders sponsored an amendment that added the dairy funds to the Department of Agriculture appropriations bill. He joined the president at the White House for the Oval Office bill-signing ceremony. The measure provides $290 million for direct support to dairy farmers. Another $60 million will be used to purchase cheese and other dairy products for food banks and nutrition programs. Sanders and Senator Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch said additional measures are needed to bring price stability to the dairy industry and to help preserve family farms. “Dairy farmers are in desperate need. We must help them as soon as possible,” said Sanders.
Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, called the bill “another timely lifeline for dairy farmers who are struggling just to stay afloat through this crisis.”
Rep. Peter Welch, cochairman of the Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus, said the measure will provide “much-needed temporary support to these hardworking, dedicated members of our community.”
The average price farmers received for their milk fell this year to $11.30 per hundredweight, down from $19.30 in July 2008. It costs farmers at least $18 per hundredweight to produce milk. As prices plunged, family dairy farms in Vermont and around the country went out of business.
Dairy farmers got a temporary boost from the Agriculture Department last July 31 when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – after meeting with the senators from Vermont and other dairy states – approved a three-month price hike that was expected to increase farmers’ revenue nationwide by $243 million.
Watch video of the senator talking about this news here.
See a picture of the senator at the White House for the signing ceremony here.