Colorado’s struggling dairy farmers get a boost

Struggling dairy farmers in Colorado and the nation received a $290 million boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Thursday.

(flickr, cc; Jelles)
(flickr, cc; Jelles)

Starting Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will make one-time payments to dairy farmers, based on the amount of milk produced and marketed between February and July, 2009.

It’s the latest in a series of efforts to help the nation’s dairy farmers. In Colorado, as a number of farmers have been pushed to bankruptcy this fall, observers have blamed the tough times on two factors: the fact that milk commodity prices are at their lowest level since the 1970s and the collapse of New Frontier Bank in Greeley.

A press release from Democrat Betsy Markey, representing Colorado’s Fourth District in the U.S. House of Representatives, quantified the recent declines in milk prices:

Milk prices declined substantially through early-to-mid-2009, with the national price for milk averaging $16.80 per hundredweight (cwt.) in the fourth quarter of 2008 and averaging $12.23 per cwt. in the first quarter of 2009, a 27-percent decline.  On average, the price U.S. dairy producers received for milk marketed in the summer of 2009 was about half of what it cost them to produce milk.

“This program will serve as a critical stop-gap measure to help dairy farmers stay in business in the short-term,” said Markey, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. She added that she had heard from farmers across Northern and Easter Colorado about declining milk prices over the last year.

But according to BusinessWeek, others worry that greater efforts will have to be undertaken.

Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she believed the plan would provide needed relief to dairy farmers but said it was only one step in the path to recovery.

“This is only a temporary solution to the fundamental problems with our dairy pricing system,” she said.

Read more at our sister site, The Iowa Independent.

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