Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding is seeking further support from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to help Pennsylvania dairy producers recover from sustained record low milk prices.

Redding joined the state agriculture leaders of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont in a letter to Vilsack seeking reinstatement of the federal support price for cheddar block and barrel cheese and non-fat dry milk to levels established in August 2009.

"Pennsylvania's dairy sector accounts for more than 40 percent of our agriculture industry, and extended low prices only serve to compound an already struggling economy," Redding said. "Many of our dairy producers have gone months without a paycheck, and that negatively impacts our state as a whole.  

"Restoring the support prices will provide an immediate boost to the economic stability of Pennsylvania's nearly 7,300 dairy farm families, and help them begin to rebuild the decades of equity lost during the past 15 months."

The state officials recognized previous efforts by USDA to help the dairy industry nationwide by making a significant cheese purchase for food banks, distributing payments to dairy producers through the Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Payment, or DELAP, program, lessening the effects of low dairy prices through the Dairy Export Incentive Program, and more.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell has strongly advocated for Pennsylvania's dairy farmers at the federal and state levels, including by requesting prompt payment from USDA to producers in the DELAP program and ensuring that the state's milk pricing system rewards producers for their hard work.

Under the current pricing system, a portion of the minimum retail price of every gallon of milk sold in Pennsylvania is not going to dairy producers --- a factor which the Governor is trying to change.

Secretary Redding and the other state agriculture leaders also pledged to continue working with USDA to support the Northeast region's dairy sector. Included in these efforts is providing ongoing updates to USDA about the health of the dairy industries in the northeastern states and supplying ideas for policy changes on the national level that will aid dairy producers.  

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture