Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire
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Kuster Calls for Action from Agriculture Secretary to Support New Hampshire Dairy Farms

Friday, September 9, 2016 - 1:00pm

In letter to Secretary Vilsack, Kuster calls for emergency relief funding for struggling dairy farms

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calling for action to protect struggling New Hampshire dairy farmers. Over the last year, New Hampshire dairy farmers have faced a number of significant challenges that have impacted their bottom lines and threatened the industry as a whole. The letter follows a forum Kuster held last month in Claremont to hear directly from dairy farmers about the challenges that are facing the dairy industry.

“I urge you to use any existing authority within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide emergency relief funding to dairy producers who have been suffering from a perfect storm of low milk prices, unstable market conditions and a historic drought,” wrote Congresswoman Kuster. “The health and strength of New Hampshire’s dairy industry is critically important to the Granite State’s overall economy. New Hampshire’s hardworking dairy farmers and families have experienced tough times these past few years, and they need our immediate help to ensure that New Hampshire’s rich agricultural history continues with success. I request USDA take swift action and employ all available measures to financially support struggling dairy producers in the coming months.”

The dairy industry has an impact of $141 million dollars on the state and local economies, providing over 3,500 jobs and more than $19 million in labor income.

The full text of the letter is available here and is included below:

 

September 9, 2016

 

The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack

Secretary of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20250

 

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

 

I write today to express my grave concerns about the challenges that many New Hampshire dairy producers have been experiencing as a result of near-record low milk prices, as well as troubling domestic and international market conditions.  In just the first eight months of this year, New Hampshire has lost 16 percent of its dairy farms, and further closures threaten the vitality of our dairy industry for years to come.  I urge you to use any existing authority within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide emergency relief funding to dairy producers who have been suffering from a perfect storm of low milk prices, unstable market conditions and a historic drought.  In addition, I request your guidance in determining what mechanisms are in place within the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help farmers adapt to the increasingly extreme weather we are experiencing in New Hampshire and to insure that adequate resources are deployed to serve drought stricken farmers.

While the recent announcement that USDA will purchase $20 million in commodity cheese products was encouraging news for dairy producers, the steep decline in milk prices and slim dairy margins requires additional support from USDA in the form of financial assistance or other market injections.  Many dairy farms in my district are teetering on the balance of closing their doors or continuing to sell milk below the cost of production; this reality has left some dairy farmers unable to meet financial obligations, and has led to farmers selling off assets and consolidating their operations.  Additionally, the unprecedented drought conditions that have gripped New Hampshire for most of the summer have led to significant crop losses and further  strained farm incomes.  As USDA begins to budget for Fiscal Year 2018, I request that your Department examine how much discretionary funding within Section 32, will be available to provide support to producers in areas with severe drought conditions.           

Furthermore, I have heard from dairy farmers across New Hampshire that the Margin Protection Program (MPP) is simply not working for their dairy operations.  With the significant drop in milk prices per hundredweight and higher feed costs that farmers in the Northeast experience, the recent allocation of $11.2 million in nationwide payments to MPP participants amounted to less than $10,000 for New Hampshire.  While long-term structural changes need to be made to MPP to improve enrollment figures and better reflect the actual feed costs that producers incur, I am concerned that producers all across the country are slipping through the safety net. I request that your department consider short-term funding measures to MPP participants as a way to help shrinking farm incomes and encourage more robust participation as the 2017 enrollment period progresses.

New Hampshire’s dairy industry comprises approximately one-third of all agricultural sales in the state, and 70% of farm land supports dairy farming.  The health and strength of New Hampshire’s dairy industry is critically important to the Granite State’s overall economy. New Hampshire’s hardworking dairy farmers and families have experienced tough times these past few years, and they need our immediate help to ensure that New Hampshire’s rich agricultural history continues with success.  I request USDA take swift action and employ all available measures to financially support struggling dairy producers in the coming months.

 

 

Sincerely,

  Ann McLane Kuster

  Member of Congress

 

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