The NMPF said it will continue to work with administration officials and members of Congress to achieve adequate aid for all dairy producers, whose projected losses of $8.2bn, based on USDA data, place them among the hardest-hit US agricultural commodities.
“We welcome this federal dairy assistance, which is critically needed as the nation’s dairy farmers face an unprecedented market collapse,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, the largest US dairy-farmer organization.
“USDA’s plan will provide relief to many farmers, and we appreciate the department’s adjustments to payment limits, an issue which we raised prior to the department finalizing this package. Even so, we believe more flexibility in payment limits and some changes to payment calculations will be needed in future rounds of funding to meet the unprecedented challenges faced by producers of all sizes, in dairy and throughout agriculture. We look forward to working with federal officials and lawmakers on additional assistance.”
The direct assistance to farmers follows USDA’s acceptance of an initial round of contracts last week to buy $317m dairy products as part of its Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which is bolstering both milk prices and dairy supply chains.
Mulhern applauded USDA’s planned large purchase of milk and dairy products for distribution through food banks and other non-profit organizations.
“All that USDA can do to buy and quickly distribute dairy products to those in need will immediately help lift depressed markets,” he said.
The HEROES Act, passed by the House of Representatives last week, includes provisions to provide relief to dairy producers, and the Senate is slated to begin work on a measure in the coming weeks.
Edge, DBA welcome details of USDA dairy payments
Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and the Dairy Business Association also welcomed the announcement by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue of details regarding direct financial help for farmers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the plan, payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will be capped at $250,000 per individual or legal entity. Initially, the limits were described as $125,000 per commodity per farmer with a total cap of $250,000 per farmer. Payments will be prorated, with 80% paid initially and the remainder at a later date as funds remain available.
Signup for the program begins May 26 and money will start moving as soon as a week later.
“This financial assistance cannot come soon enough. The unprecedented negative effects of the pandemic on the food supply chain and milk prices have left our dairy farmers hurting like never before. This direct support will help these essential businesses continue the critical work of producing wholesome food for our nation,” Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative said.
“We are pleased that USDA heeded calls for higher payments, which will make more dairy farmers eligible for assistance closer to their actual losses. Still, there is more work to be done to ensure that all farms are treated equitably. It is vital that our dairy farmers, no matter the size of their businesses, be made as close to whole as possible and as soon as possible. The payment program will no doubt help but not completely, and we will work further with Congress and the administration on filling the remaining gaps so dairy farmers have all the resources possible to repair the damage done by COVID-19.
“We thank Secretary Perdue and the team at USDA for their diligence in implementing the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which will help farmers and people in need of food during this national emergency. We look forward to continuing to work with the agency all the way down to the local level to support a swift signup for farmers and a strong recovery for the dairy community.”