Stefanik: Farm Bill should help NY dairy farmers more

Rep. Elise Stefanik answers questions from studio audience during a community forum in May at Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh. (Press-Republican photo — Kayla Breen)

PLATTSBURGH — North County Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has joined an effort to reform a federal dairy program that local farmers say is not helping them.

“We are hopeful they can do something because we are starting to lose a lot of farms in the North Country,” said Beekmantown dairy farmer and former Clinton County Legislator and Treasurer Joseph Giroux.

The Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers offers dairy producers insurance for when the price of milk goes too low for them to recoup their production costs. The insurance provides payments to participating producers when the national dairy production margin is less than $4 per hundredweight. The national dairy production margin is the difference between the all-milk price and average feed costs.

Midwest favored

Giroux said farmers in the Northeast are not seeing the benefits of the program because its formula favors Midwest farmers. Farmers there pay less for herd feed than Northeast farmers, whose prices are bloated due to higher transportation costs, he said.

Giroux thinks the formula needs to be changed to account for higher feed expenses in the Northeast.

“A lot of farmers are getting discouraged,” he said. “We are in our fourth year of lousy milk prices, and people are fed up.”

Giroux spoke with the Press-Republican while attending the Clinton County Fair Tuesday evening, less than an hour before he learned that his farm on Route 22 in Beekmantown was being devastated by fire.

Changes sought

Stefanik, a Republican from Willsboro, represents New York’s 21st Congressional District, which spans the North Country. She, along with New York Congress members Claudia Tenny (R-22), John Faso (R-19), Tom Reed (R-23), John Katko (R-24) and Chris Collins (R-27), are calling for reforms to the Margin Protection Program for the fiscal year 2018 Farm Bill.

In a letter to Rep. Mike Conaway, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Stefanik and her New York colleagues requested reforms that would make programs more effective for family farmers in upstate New York.

Although the MPP-Dairy program is fairly new, it has underperformed for New York farmers in its first two years, Stefanik said in a news release. Reforms they seek include reducing premium rates and providing a viable safety net for dairy farmers in the coming years.

“As we work toward the next Farm Bill, I will continue to fight for the priorities of our North Country farmers,” Stefanik said. “Dairy is critical to our agriculture economy, and I am pleased to join my colleagues on this important push to support our local farmers.”

New York is the fourth largest milk-producing state in the nation, with nearly 5,000 family-owned dairy farms.

(Editor’s note: Four daily newspapers in the North Country — the Enterprise, Post-Star of Glens Falls, Watertown Daily Times and Press-Republican of Plattsburgh — are sharing content to better cover New York’s 21st Congressional District.)


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