Pittsfield- Today, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) announced that the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) has released a list naming 180 dairy farms determined eligible for assistance through the Emergency Dairy Relief Program funded at $3.6 million in Governor Patrick’s supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2007.
“With the recent declines in the price of milk, dairy farms throughout my district and across the Commonwealth are having difficulty earning a sustainable profit,” remarked Downing. “Not only do these farms contribute to an important industry, but they provide a fresh, nutritious product and help protect open space. The dairy industry must be sustained in Massachusetts and I am pleased that the Department of Agricultural Resources has allocated funds to keep these farms afloat until long-term solution is in place.”
Of those 180 dairy farms, 39 are located in Senator Downing’s district and will be receiving $1.1 million of this one-time supplemental allocation. These funds are distributed to dairy farmers based on each farm’s milk production in the 2006 calendar year.
In 2006, dairy prices for farmers fell by $0.19 to $1.14 per gallon, which equals prices that were paid to farmers in 1981. For the typical 100 cow family farm in Massachusetts producing 233,000 gallons of milk per year, this price decline equates to a loss of income of $44,270. On top of the decreased prices, production costs have risen sharply and are now at $1.70 per gallon. The price that dairy farmers receive is determined by the federal government and based on national supply and demand conditions to price milk throughout the country, including Massachusetts and New England. In recent years, huge dairy operations with more than 1,000 cows each in New Mexico, Texas, Idaho and California have driven up supply, while significantly decreasing prices. The price paid by the consumer, however, is unregulated, ensuring that retailers will continue to collect a profit on the sale of milk.
In addition to providing $3.6 million in funding, the supplemental budget, which was approved in May, also includes language establishing a Dairy Farm Revitalization Task Force to study and recommend long-term solutions to sustain the dairy industry in Massachusetts. State Representatives Daniel Bosley (D-North Adams) and Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) were recently appointed to this 11-member task force and will be charged with investigating the impact of increased fixed costs borne by the dairy farming community including fuel prices, health care and insurance costs, promoting locally produced milk, promoting alternative and renewable energy uses for farmers. The task force will report its findings and any accompanying legislation to the clerks of the Senate and House of Representatives, the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and the Senate and House Committees on Ways and Means no later than October 1, 2007.