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Conservation and Farm Groups Call on Congress to Address Dairy Crisis

 
CONTACT:

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


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****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