By New York State Sen. Joseph Griffo
My office has been contacted by a number of dairy farmers and residents who have shared their concern about local stores limiting the amount of milk that people can purchase. Such a practice hurts our dairy farmers unnecessarily, many of whom have been forced to dump milk due to what appears to be arbitrary limitations.
Along with Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, I brought this to the attention of the governor’s office and had a call scheduled to speak with several state Department of Agriculture & Markets deputy commissioners and senior staff about issues affecting the state’s dairy industry as a result of COVID-19. During this call the department explained that they are aware of the problems many dairy farms are experiencing and are interacting with processors, farmers, the retail sector and those who transport dairy products.
While the department said that there is an ample supply of product and there is no supply chain issue, the market for milk and dairy products has been shrinking due to restaurants and retail establishments restructuring their operations. I also was told that there is no reason that individuals should be restricted or prohibited from purchasing milk in retail settings.
Further, the department said that they are working with the state Department of Labor to ensure that employers receive additional assistance if needed and that they have also been in touch with food banks to determine if there is a need for dairy that can be supplied. The department stressed that every angle related to this issue is being reviewed and considered.
I also should note that the federal CARES Act allocates $9.5 billion through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deal with farm issues and $14 billion to the department’s Commodity Credit Corporation, which also assists the country’s agriculture industry and farmers. I am hopeful that New York will be applying and will advocate that New York receive a significant amount of funding proportionate to state’s demonstrated need.
In the meantime, the state Department of Agriculture & Markets are urging farmers to continue to gather and quantify data on their loses as a result of COVID-19. The department will solicit this data to attempt to obtain funding to help farmers defray some of their loses.
I also recently joined with my Republican colleagues in the Senate to write a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue regarding COVID-19 and the affect it has had on the state’s agriculture industry. In our letter, we urged the USDA to assist and protect the state’s dairy farms, fresh produce growers, livestock farms, horticulturalists, craft distilleries, maple producers and other agriculture-related entities during the current public health crisis.
Agriculture is the cornerstone of our society and making sure our food supply chain remains strong should be a top priority throughout this pandemic. I will continue to advocate for assistance for our hardworking farmers.