Senator Gillibrand proposes dairy pricing changes, farmers say it’s necessary

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PINE CITY, NY (WENY) — There are nearly 3,500 dairy farmers in New York State alone. One farmer in upstate New York believes something should be done to change the way the government handles milk pricing.

Dairy farmers are paid by the hundred weight; meaning for every 100 pounds of milk, a dairy farmer is paid a set amount of money, which is based on a formula and regulated by the federal government, known as Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMOs).

“With the cost of fertilizer, diesel fuel, and other things, the cost of the dairy business has gone up. It would make it more equitable for them to pay us per hundred weight, based on the higher class of milk,” said Mark Watts, who runs a dairy farm in Pine City.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced her Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act on Thursday, as part of the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill negotiations. The Farm Bill is re-visited and needs congressional approval every five years.

The Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act would give dairy farmers the ability to review proposals, which could change the class one milk pricing for things like skim and whole milk. Currently, milk is separated into four classes – milk used for beverages is Class I; milk used for products like cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, frozen desserts, sour cream, yogurt and other foods is Class II; milk used for cream cheese, spreadable cheeses and hard cheese or shredded, grated or crumbled cheese is Class III, and Class IV is milk used for butter, evaporated or sweetened condensed milk.

Watts explained the cost for farmers to produce milk is going up, but the amount they get paid for their product is not.

“It gets harder and harder each year to try to make ends meet. We need to re-look at the milk pricing, and how the milk order is done,” said Watts.

If the bill is passed, it would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hold public hearings within six months. Watts said by updating the existing guidelines, it will help keep small and medium sized farms like his in business.

“We want to stay in the business if we can. And if we get some help from this bill Senator Gillibrand has put forth; thank you,” said Watts.


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