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Politics & Government

Sen. Gillibrand to USDA: Reimburse Upstate New York Dairy Farmers Hurt by Shutdown

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United States Department of Agriculture
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It appears Central and Upstate New York’s already struggling dairy farmers are among those feeling the fallout from the 35-day partial government shutdown.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the farmers were set to receive relief for a failed insurance program under the new farm bill. 

But everything came to a grinding halt.

"Because of the shutdown our dairy farmers haven't seen a penny of the refunds that they are owed, a process that should have begun as soon as the farm bill became law last year."

Here's what happened: Dairy farmers paid into what they thought was an insurance program that would protect them if milk prices dipped below a certain level.  The insurance would cover the difference between production and wholesale prices.  Milk prices have been depressed for several years, but Gillibrand says most New York dairy farmers didn’t qualify for reimbursement.

"We have smaller farms. We do not have the big industrial farms and our cost of production is very high. Unfortunately, the cost of production was higher than the reimbursement rate for a hundredweight of milk. So what the new plan does is fix some of those problems. And it makes it easier for more farms in New York to buy at a level that they actually will get reimbursed."

So, Gillibrand is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to immediately fast-track the implementation of the farm bill to provide much needed relief.

"Our dairy farmers cannot wait another day for these funds. They need to know when the payments are coming, how they are going to receive them from the USDA and how much they're going to be getting. Because without this information, they are not going to be able to make plans for their farms. And spring planting is coming soon."

Gillibrand says soil and water conservation programs have also been delayed because of the shutdown, as well as rural broadband needed to provide telemedicine in farming communities.