Donate E-News Signup Contact Site Map Search
Press Releases
  Print This Page

Conservation and Farm Groups Call on Congress to Address Dairy Crisis


Cris Coffin: American Farmland Trust, (413) 586-4593, ccoffin@farmland.org
David Haight: American Farmland Trust, (518) 581-0078, dhaight@farmland.org

Washington, D.C., June 8, 2009 —Thirty-six conservation groups, farm organizations, local governments and others across the Northeast have joined together requesting that Congress and the Obama administration take quick action to address the crisis facing dairy farmers. Dairy farmers in the Northeast and around the country are facing severe and prolonged low milk prices—prices that are well below the farmers’ costs of production. This sustained price slump has caused the loss of some dairy farms already and threatens the future of thousands more in the Northeast.

“Without federal action, New York and New England will continue to lose farms that produce a fresh and dependable milk supply for millions of nearby consumers,” said Cris Coffin, New England Director of American Farmland Trust. 

Dairy farms are the “anchor tenants” of Northeast agriculture. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, dairy farmers own or manage 3.5 million acres of land in farms in New York and New England. An additional 2.7 million acres are used for hay and corn production, much of which is used to feed dairy cows. This acreage represents 55 percent of the region’s land in farms. 

Gil Livingston, President of the Vermont Land Trust, said, “Dairy farmers and healthy dairy enterprises are critical to our region’s economy, agrarian communities and environmental health. Because they steward millions of acres of farmland across the region, dairy farms are important allies in protecting water quality, natural communities and other important resources, and they play a role in mitigating the impacts of global warming.” 

Dairy farms are also a significant economic engine. The region’s 7,472 dairy farms produce $3.3 billion in dairy cattle and milk sales annually. The multiplier effect of that production is significant; according to Penn State’s Center for Dairy Excellence, 85 percent of a dairy farm’s income is spent locally and each farm dollar recycles 2.5 times through the economy.

“Dairy farms are critical to the health of our region’s economy. They purchase supplies and services from machinery dealers, veterinarians, hardware stores and other local businesses while supporting thousands of food processing jobs,” said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau. “It hurts all farmers when dairy farms go out of business as it makes it more likely that these support businesses will leave the region.”

The 36 groups urged Congress to provide a better federal income safety net for dairy farmers through the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. In addition, they have called on Congress to make federal funds available to dairy farms, as have been made available to other industries and businesses, to allow farmers to consolidate debt and restructure loans. 

Organizations that joined on the call to Congress include:

Teri Ptacek

Agricultural Stewardship Association


Cris Coffin

American Farmland Trust, New England Office


David Haight

American Farmland Trust, New York Office


Narain Schroeder

Berkshire Natural Resources Council


Phil Korman

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture


Steve Reviczky

Connecticut Farm Bureau


Henry Talmage

Connecticut Farmland Trust


Eric Hammerling

Connecticut Forest and Park Association


Gordon Gibson

Connecticut State Grange


Lynda Brushett

Cooperative Development Institute


Lucy Nolan

End Hunger Connecticut


Nancy Goodman

Environmental League of Massachusetts


Rich Hubbard

Franklin Land Trust


Eric Grace

Genesee Valley Conservancy


Bill Bell

Maine Association of Conservation Districts


Jon Olson

Maine Farm Bureau


John Piotti

Maine Farmland Trust


Jennifer Ryan

Massachusetts Audubon Society


Doug Gillespie

Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation


Bernie McHugh

Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition


Ryan Owens

Monadnock Conservancy


Leigh Youngblood

Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust


Maureen Knapp

New York Agricultural Land Trust


Dean Norton

New York Farm Bureau


Al Bettencourt

Rhode Island Farm Bureau


Cindy Trahan-Liptak

Rutland Land Conservancy


Kathy Orlando

Sheffield Land Trust


Carolyn DeMoranville

Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership


Linda Garrett

Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust


Jeanie McIntyre

Upper Valley Land Trust


Jackie Folsom

Vermont Farm Bureau


Gil Livingston

Vermont Land Trust


Robin Chesmer

Very Alive


Terry Jones

Working Lands Alliance


Barbara Hanley

Westport Agricultural Commission


Barbara Hanley

Westport Agricultural & Open Space Trust Fund Council 

Town of Westport


Drew Shapiro

Wyoming County Department of Planning and Development


****Note to editors: dairy photos for illustration are available via email to Jennifer Morrill, director of media relations at: jmorrill@farmland.org


American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.

AFT's national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.

American Farmland Trust