Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and Representative Peter Welch (D), co-chair of the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus, on Wednesday, May 13, led a letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do more to support dairy farmers facing an economic crisis due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Leahy is vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the most senior member of the Agriculture Committee.
In the letter, they point out that cratering demand caused by the pandemic has created an existential crisis for Vermont dairy farmers already struggling with low milk prices.
“Dairy farms are the backbone of Vermont’s rural economy and offer critical nutrition and high-quality products to individuals across the country,” wrote Leahy, Sanders and Welch. “Our dairy farmers face unprecedented challenges and have received little of the support that Congress has provided. While we appreciate the recent Farmers to Families Food Box contracts awarded for Vermont, we urge you to act immediately to use all available programs to support the struggling dairy industry, including the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to provide direct relief to farmers in need.”
Specifically, the letter urges the USDA to use tools already at their disposal to immediately:
- Compensate dairy farmers for the months they will be impacted the most by low milk prices.
- Pay producers to reduce production and compensate them for milk that has to be dumped.
- Reopen the Dairy Margin Coverage Program for 2020.
- Convene an emergency hearing to establish a price floor for milk.
The full letter is available here.