Salem, Oregon (July 28, 2016) -- Today, a letter signed by 57 members of Congress from both the House and Senate was sent to USDA Tom Secretary Vilsack asking for assistance for dairy producers struggling with declining milk prices. Specifically, the members are asking for the USDA to use its authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to expand and maintain U.S. domestic markets.
"Oregon's dairy farmers are struggling with the 40% decline in milk prices we are receiving today. The Oregon Dairy Farmers Association championed this Bi-Partisan, Bi-Cameral effort and especially appreciate the support from four of Oregon's Congressional Members: Senators Merkley and Wyden together with Congressman Schrader and Congresswoman Bonamici", said ODFA President Chad Allen.
Oregon was home to more than 1,000 dairy farms at its prime. Today, only 228 dairy farms remain in business in 21 of Oregon's 36 counties. Oregon's Dairies are family businesses. These businesses contributed more than $650 million dollars to Oregon's economy in 2014. Unfortunately, the decline in milk price is putting tremendous pressure on these farmers. "We are anxiously awaiting the signal from Secretary Vilsack that he will bring to bear all of his statutory authority to address the issues to bring meaningful relief," said Tammy Dennee, ODFA Legislative Director.
Farm milk prices have dropped 40 percent since 2014, due to both an increase in U.S. production levels and changes in the European Union's regulation of milk production. In vastly different dairy market regions of the United States, farmers are facing similar margin shortfalls while still adjusting to changes in federal dairy support programs from the 2014 Farm Bill. The Secretary of Agriculture has the authority, under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act, to expand and maintain U.S. domestic markets. By taking such action, the USDA can make an immediate market injection to directly and equally support struggling dairy farmers nationwide.
The full text of the letter is available below:
July 28, 2016
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
""" Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We write today to express our concern about the troubling economic challenges facing U.S. dairy farmers and the entire U.S. dairy industry. We have seen farm milk prices drop forty percent since 2014 and in May the nation's cheese stocks were recorded at their highest level since the data was first recorded in 1917. Current expectations are that the dairy market will continue to struggle with depressed prices and we seek your help as we search for ways to swiftly assist our nation's struggling dairy farmers.
Our dairy farmers have been hit extremely hard by low farm milk prices that have resulted in sharply reduced incomes, which is placing our nation's dairy industry in an extremely vulnerable position. A number of factors have contributed to this crisis. U.S. milk production has increased almost two percent above last year's level, while global milk production is up significantly, partly as a result of the European Union's decision to remove its milk production quotas and the loss of their export market to Russia. Furthermore, we are seeing an increase in production in other major milk-producing countries that have led to these depressed prices globally. All of this comes as our dairy farmers are still adjusting to the new Farm Bill, and the many changes that were made to our dairy support programs.
We are deeply concerned that U.S. dairy farmers, who are a key part of our agriculture community and agriculture economy, are in greater need of stability and support as they face these significantly lower prices, which for many are below their actual cost of production. As this industry is reeling from low prices, a glut of imports, challenges in our export markets, and poor economic growth projections we urge the USDA to use its secretarial authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (15 U.S.C. 714c), Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935 (7 U.S.C. 612c), and look to past precedent for how to take action to protect all of our nation's dairy farmers from further crisis and to aid in the expansion and maintenance of domestic markets. We encourage USDA to take any and all actions available in order to make an immediate market injection and offer financial assistance that will directly support U.S. dairy farmers equally, while being cautious to not stimulate overproduction further.
The family business of dairy farming has long been woven into our nation's agricultural history. Across the country, in all 50 states, dairy farms large and small are economic drivers providing local jobs and local products. During the 2009 dairy collapse, we saw far too many families have to sell off their cows and close the doors for good. Through the support of USDA, we can hopefully prevent many farms from needing to make that same difficult decision today and we hope you will work to support all of our dairy farmers across the country.
We look forward to working closely with you in determining the best course of action to take in managing the current dairy industry financial crisis. Thank you for taking the time to address this important matter. """