WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Friday issued the following statements in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement that it would create a $350 million Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program to assist dairy farmers impacted by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, USDA announced crucial changes to the existing Dairy Margin Coverage Farmer Support Program that will result in $100 million in retroactive payments to farmers and an estimated $80 million increase in payments per year over the next ten years. The senators previously urged USDA to take additional action to support U.S. dairy farmers, including more direct payment assistance through USDA programs or through new and existing programs.
Funding from the Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program comes in part from federal relief in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the emergency COVID-19 relief legislation that were signed into law.
“This is great news for Connecticut’s dairy farmers. Back in May, we wrote to the Department of Agriculture to ask that they take steps to support small farmers who were hit hard by the pandemic. And with this announcement, dairy farmers across Connecticut are going to have access to much needed relief,” said Murphy.
“New Hampshire dairy farmers were hard hit by the pandemic, and I know that impact was felt by other dairy providers throughout the nation. I’m glad the U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking this important step and heeding calls by Senators Gillibrand, Murphy and me to do more to support this vital industry as we work to get to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Shaheen. “I’m encouraged to see the administration put critical federal relief I worked to secure from the CARES Act and emergency COVID relief legislation toward this new program. Our dairy farmers play an important role in our state’s agriculture and identity, which is why I’ll continue to explore every avenue available to ensure they have the assistance they need to continue operations unencumbered.”
“After more than a year of grappling with financial hardship caused by the pandemic, many of New York’s 4,000 dairy farmers and dairy farmers across the country continue to need urgent relief to keep their operations running efficiently,” said Gillibrand. “I worked hard with Senators Shaheen and Murphy to ensure that our farmers are not left behind during this difficult time and I am proud that Secretary Vilsack and the USDA recognized the need and have chosen to prioritize aid for our nation’s dairy farmers. This federal relief will help offset unintended losses that dairy farmers faced last year. I will always fight for our dairy farmers and look forward to continuing to seek solutions to the problems our nation’s dairy farmers face.”
“The Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program is another component of our ongoing effort to get aid to producers who have been left behind and build on our progress towards economic recovery,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Today’s announcement is due in no small part to the advocacy of Senators Shaheen, Gillibrand and Murphy. Family dairy farmers have been battered by the pandemic, trade issues and unpredictable weather and are the life-blood of many rural communities across the Northeast and many other regions. This targeted assistance is the first step in USDA’s comprehensive approach that will total over $2 billion to help the dairy industry recover from the pandemic and be more resilient to future challenges for generations to come.”
This announcement is in addition to $400 million for a new Dairy Donation Program to address food insecurity and mitigate food waste and loss, as well as $580 million for Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage for small and medium farms, which was included in emergency COVID relief legislation signed into law last year.