Vermont's dairy farmers are facing financial ruin due to low milk prices and the state's dairy industry is "on the brink of collapse," according to Congressman Peter Welch, who this week urged the House agriculture committee to take action to save family farms.
Welch said the dairy industry represents 70 percent of Vermont's agricultural sector and the dairy crisis could have a broad impact on the state's rural economy. Failing farms could have serious consequences for the state's feed dealers, farm equipment suppliers, processing plants and creditors, he said.
Last week, Welch introduced legislation that would index to inflation Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program payments to dairy farmers. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is introducing companion legislation in the Senate.
"We are in the midst of a dairy crisis like Vermont has never seen. Throughout the state and throughout the Northeast, dairy farmers are struggling to hang on as the disparity between the price of milk and the cost of production shows no sign of easing," Welch said.
Secretaries of agriculture from 11 Northeastern states wrote Congress earlier this year to request an increase in MILC payments.
Roger Albee, Vermont's agriculture secretary, said dairy farmers are victims of "an antiquated and broken pricing system that is putting their livelihoods at risk."