Despite Lawmakers’ Efforts, Some Dairy Farms Will Likely Shut Down

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – Upstate dairy farmers are in trouble. They’re earning about half as much as they did four years ago and it’s not enough to live on. Federal representatives are pushing for stopgaps, but experts say, it’s not enough.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says she’s worried the dairy farmers she represents in New York are struggling.

“I’ve read a lot of stories that our local papers have covered about our dairy farmers living in poverty, not having enough money to pay their bills, worried about having to close their farms, sell their farms to the highest bidder.”

It’s taking a toll. Dairy farmers say their monthly milk check now comes with a phone number for a suicide prevention hotline.

Monica Sandreczki / WSKG Public Media

Whittaker Farms in Whitney Point, NY.

To reduce that stress, Gillibrand is proposing financial cushions.

She’s asking the US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for $300 million in emergency relief into dairy farmers’ milk check.

However, some experts don’t think it will work. Andrew Novaković, professor of agricultural economics at Cornell, calls her idea a long shot, a “a very, very, very long shot” that’s more of a psychological boost for dairy farmers. Though, he says, it’s a sign Gillibrand does recognize the pain in the dairy sector.

At the core, it’s an issue of supply and demand in international trade.

“We have a president who seems intent on ruining our trade relations with both Mexico and China. This isn’t really helping the dairy industry at all because these are two of our biggest customers,” said Novaković. “So how optimistic can you be on the demand side? That leaves the supply side. The supply side adjusts itself by people going out of business.”

When dairy farmers say the bank won’t lend them money or they haven’t turned a profit in two years, Novaković says, you know they’re going under.

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