It’s appropriate that federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding has been allocated to assist the hard-working farmers here in the Susquehanna Valley and across the state because we all should care about their economic stability and success.

State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding visited a dairy farm near Reading on Friday to encourage dairy farmers to apply for CARES reimbursements because they were forced by market conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic — factors no one could control — to dump milk.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the early days, we saw Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers face devastating losses,” Redding said. “Hard work, sweat and tears went down the drain.”

Standing in the dairy barn at Scattered Acres Dairy Farm, Redding, encouraged all dairy farmers who suffered these losses to apply for a $1,500 grant from the $15 million CARES Act-funding Dairy Indemnity Program. About $13.5 million is still available for distribution.

Any dairy farm that experienced financial losses due to discarded or displaced milk during the COVID-19 emergency disaster may apply for assistance.

“Destruction of demand for products typically sold to food service and export markets, caused havoc in the dairy supply chain,” said Paul Hartman, of Scattered Acres Dairy Farm, explaining that during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, dairy processors told farmers they would have to dump milk because there were no other options to market the perishable products.

Hartman said it is heartening to see the state government stepping up to offer assistance. “While farmers would prefer to get our prices from the marketplace, when that is not possible, we need help,” he said during the news briefing at his farm. “The money we received has gone to pay all of our vendors fully, for supplies and services such as animal feed, veterinary costs and animal health needs, equipment repairs and service, animal bedding, fuel and bank mortgage payments to name a few.”

There are more than 7,000 dairy farmers across Pennsylvania providing more than 52,000 jobs. With production of more than 102 billion pounds of milk annually, Pennsylvania is ranked seventh in the nation for total milk production.

State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), who serves as Democratic chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, urged every farmer to consider the CARES program and receive the grants simply by filling out a one-page application.

“In addition to the emotional toll of literally pouring your product down the drain, our farmers have faced serious financial ramifications,” Sen. Schwank said. Much more information relating to agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic is available online at: agriculture.pa.gov/COVID.

“It is important to understand these dollars don’t stop at the farm gate,” Joe Rotz of the PA Farm Bureau notes. “They are immediately reinvested into local businesses that are critical to maintaining our rural communities.”

And the economic health of our rural and agricultural communities is vital to all of us. That’s why we care.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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