WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of 56 members of the House and Senate in urging Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan to free up safety net funds to help dairy farmers in Wisconsin and across the nation who are struggling with declining milk prices.
In a letter sent last Thursday, Baldwin and the lawmakers request that Donovan do all he can to support Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in using existing authorities to expand and maintain U.S. domestic markets, encourage the domestic consumption of dairy products, and help dairy farmers through the ongoing financial crisis.
“These dairy farms make up the backbone of our rural economy, and farms both large and small act as economic drivers, providing local jobs and supporting a wide array of other businesses,” wrote the lawmakers. The last financial crisis that hit the dairy industry in 2009 forced far too many families to go out of business and sell off their herds. Farms that had been in families for generations were driven into ruin and forced to close their doors for good. Through the support of this administration, we can hopefully prevent many farms from needing to make that same difficult decision today. We hope you will work with us to support all of our dairy farmers across the country.”
Last week, the Agriculture Department announced it would purchase $20 million of cheddar cheese to reduce a cheese surplus that has reached record levels as milk prices have plummeted. This move by USDA came following a bipartisan, bicameral letter Senator Baldwin sent with 60 other lawmakers to Secretary Vilsack asking for assistance for dairy producers struggling with declining milk prices. This purchase will also help food banks and other food assistance agencies. Recent reports, according to USDA data, suggest that more than 43 million gallons of milk were dumped in fields, manure lagoons or animal feed, or have been lost on truck routes or discarded at plants in the first eight months of 2016.
A copy of the letter the lawmakers sent is available here.