WASHINGTON, D.C. - New York’s local dairy farms brings in billions to the state’s economy. In fact, we’re one of the top dairy producing states. However, many of these farms end up spending more money to produce a gallon of milk than what they earn back from their hard work. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- NY) is pushing legislation that would reevaluate the federal milk pricing system. The Senator said it’s an old system and we need to make sure our farmers have a voice in this process. We asked her how the current system impacts our farmers.  

“We’ve seen this roller coaster where cost of production exceeds the reimbursement rates and it has to stop and so our farmers are living on thinner and thinner margins and they can’t they can’t make ends meet,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “So we need to redo this system and that’s why we want to ask GAO to do their review now and it’s why we’re going to have a process in the Farm Bill to require this review.”  

The GAO is the Government Accountability Office. Gillibrand said she’s going to ask them this week to conduct a review of the federal milk market order program. She said this review will help make sure the federal pricing system accounts for the interests of smaller farms.  

In her legislation, which is called the Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act, it would direct the USDA to start holding federal milk market order hearings within six months after this legislation is signed off. Gillibrand said these hearings will give farmers a chance to give their input on how their products are priced. Over the phone, Rep. Joe Sempolinski (R- NY) said milk pricing for local farmers has been an issue that can be revisited.  

“Dairy is a very big part of that agricultural sector in this congressional district,” said Rep. Sempolinski. “If there is some way that they can be treated more fairly or the price could be spent more efficiently and put them in a position to be competitive, then sure let’s look at it and see if there is a way that could be done, done better.”  

Gillibrand says the last time the federal milk pricing system was revised was more than 20 years ago. She adds that while new technologies and processes have changed the way farmers produce milk in many ways, this system has simply not kept pace with current reality.  

Gillibrand’s bill has been introduced here at the Capitol but so far, it looks like it hasn’t moved forward past any committees yet.