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Senator Baldwin Joins Bipartisan, Bicameral Congressional Coalition Sending Letter to USDA Urging Market Balancing Help for Struggling Milk Producers

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), joined by a bipartisan coalition of 57 other members of the House and Senate, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom 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.

“Wisconsin dairy farmers work hard every day moving our economy forward, so we need to do everything we can to reward their hard work by giving them a fair shot at getting ahead,” said Senator Baldwin. “Keeping our economy strong means ensuring our rural communities and farms make it through this challenging time for the dairy industry.”

“I have witnessed firsthand the struggle that dairy farmers around the country face with decreasing milk prices,” said Representative Courtney. “As milk prices have steadily declined over the last half century, Connecticut has seen its dairy industry shrink from over 800 farms to about 150 today. Reopening or starting a new dairy farm is a herculean task, which is why when one closes, more often than not, no farm will replace it. The American dairy industry is an integral part of our agriculture economy and as we face yet another milk crisis, it is more important than ever for the Department of Agriculture to lend a hand to our dairy farmers before it’s too late.”

Leahy, a leading member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a former chairman of the panel, said: “Our dairy farms and the hardworking families that keep them running in communities in Vermont and across the nation are enduring an extremely tough summer as prices have plunged to a nearly ten-year low, well below the cost of production. This comes on the heels of a very challenging spring, and I am deeply concerned that the current price forecasts remain dire for our farmers.  That is why we have come together today, Democrats and Republicans from across the country, to call on USDA to act with urgency, using every tool and authority at their disposal, to help our struggling dairy farmers.  They cannot wait.  They need our help now.”

"As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have made it my priority to support Pennsylvania dairy farmers,” said Senator Casey. “The dairy industry, which contributes more than $4 billion to our state's agricultural economy each year, is the Commonwealth's top agricultural sector. These farmers deserve our help in a challenging economic time, and we must do everything we can to ensure their stability and support."

Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union, said: "The challenges in the U.S. dairy industry have been mounting as milk prices remain low and dairy price programs have failed to work as intended. The need for immediate aid that directly supports family dairy farmers is at a critical tipping point, and I applaud the efforts of these Congressional champions for family dairy farmers in taking this important first step.”

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 letter was signed by: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Sen. Kelly A. Ayotte (R-NH), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. Ryan A. Costello (R-PA), Rep. John K. Delaney (D-MD), Rep. Suzan K. DelBenne (D-WA), Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty (D-CT), Rep. Christopher P. Gibson (R-NY), Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Rep. James R. Langevin (D-RI), Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), Rep. Elise M. Stefanik (R-NY), Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), Rep. Timothy J. Walz (D-MN), and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

A copy of the letter is available here.