April 13, 2020
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the most senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the Committee’s Ranking Member, and 23 other Senators on Monday sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging immediate action to support the nation’s dairy farmers in the wake of the COVID-19 dairy crisis.
According to the letter, the health emergency’s impact on dairy prices has already translated to an estimated $5.7 billion loss at the farm level. The timing of those losses could not be worse as producers just walked through five consecutive years of low prices.
“We urge the Department to act quickly and build off of existing programs to deliver both direct assistance to dairy farmers and intervene in the market to reverse the decline in futures prices and signal a floor on farm prices and support dairy processors and others in the supply chain,” they wrote.
Joining Leahy and Stabenow on the letter are Senators Schumer, Casey, Smith, Gillibrand, Klobuchar, Peters, Sanders, Shaheen, Van Hollen, Reed, Warren, Cardin, Murphy, Wyden, King, Carper, Coons, Blumenthal, Hassan, Durbin, Baldwin, Feinstein, and Whitehouse.
The group of lawmakers would like to see Perdue use some of the funding included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide direct relief to dairy producers. They’d also like to see immediate administrative actions including reopening Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) for 2020 enrollment and purchasing large quantities of dairy products to donate to food banks.
“While these recommended actions should reduce the imbalance between milk supply and demand in certain segments of the dairy industry caused by COVID-19, especially in the short term, there will likely be additional milk dumping,” they wrote. “With significant dumping of milk possible, the Department should work quickly to ensure that there is a clear incentive to process and donate as much milk as possible.”