BOSTON – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) was named the 2010 Legislator of the Year by the Massachusetts Association of Dairy Farmers during the Association’s annual meeting at the Blue Bonnet Diner in Northampton on Monday.
The Association chose Downing for the year’s award in recognition of his effective representation of the citizens of western Massachusetts and his ability to promote and advance strong agricultural and environmental policies.
"Dairy farms are an integral part of Massachusetts and are the backbone of the western Mass. economy,” said Downing. “They put people to work, provide high quality food for our families, and preserve open space. I am glad my colleagues and I were able to advance dairy farmers’ priorities in our last session; we will continue to do so in this session."
Previously, Downing worked with the Association and those who served on the Dairy Farm Revitalization Task Force to advance An Act Relative to the Preservation of Dairy Farms, legislation signed into law by Governor Patrick on August 14, 2008. During the Senate’s deliberations on the Act Downing secured language establishing the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board, tasked with increasing the consumption of Massachusetts dairy products. The Board is funded and able to expend funds from the Massachusetts Diary Promotion Trust Fund.
Downing received the award from Jimmy Larkin, a dairy farmer from Sheffield. Larkin spoke highly of the Senator’s interest and advocacy on behalf of dairy farmers living and working in Berkshire County.
Louie Aragi, another dairy farmer from Sheffield, recalled how Downing attended a county Farm Bureau meeting late one night prior to his first election. “After that evening, many of us knew that he would be a great spokesperson for our needs and concerns in the Massachusetts Senate,” said Aragi.
The objective of the Massachusetts Association of Dairy Farmers is to encourage and promote all interests that advance a truly viable dairy industry. The Association believes in the importance of a local supply of wholesome milk. The Association believes that agriculture is the building block of our country; they see “preserving a Massachusetts way of life” as their primary goal.
According to the state Department of Agricultural Resources, there are 189 family-owned dairy farms operating in Massachusetts today, collectively producing 38 million gallons of milk a year.