Dairy farmers — our neighbors who are on the job before the sun rises each morning and working late into the evening each night to ensure we all have adequate supplies of milk, cheese, butter and other dairy products — need our attention and support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough for many businesses, but the economic floor caved in beneath our hard-working, dedicated dairy farmers in the past few months.

In May, the price paid to dairy farmers for 100 pounds of milk (cwt.) had fallen 33 percent since December to $12.95 per cwt. Then, in June, it fell even further, to $11.42. Even worse, as restaurants and schools closed, dairy farmers lost significant portions of their customer base and some were forced to discard valuable products.

In a letter to The Daily Item, Arden Tewksbury, manager of the Progressive Agriculture Organization, a group that advocates for farmers, called the prices “unbelievably low,” noting that recent federal dairy prices were at least $8 per cwt. below the national average cost of producing milk.

Some price relief may be coming. Forecasts for July are showing an increase of $5.14 per cwt. from the June price, to $16.56 in July, according to the Announcement of Advanced Prices and Pricing Factors, published on June 17 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced the availability of $40 million in funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support the state’s dairy industry and food security programs.

“Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry represents the very best of who we are — something that’s been seen since the very beginning of our COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” the governor said June 16. “That’s why it’s critical that we open these programs to support Pennsylvania’s farmers today. This CARES funding is going to an industry that gives back every day to ensure that Pennsylvanians have access to fresh food.”

A total of $15 million will be designated for dairy farmers to receive direct relief payments and $5 million will reimburse dairy farmers who participate in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System program by donating excess dairy products to the commonwealth’s charitable food system.

Any dairy farm that experienced financial losses due to discarded or displaced milk during the COVID-19 emergency disaster may apply for assistance, state officials said. The deadline is Sept. 30.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the market crashed, but dairy farmers never slowed down their mission to provide nutritious food for their communities. We hope they find some meaningful relief soon. 

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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