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WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chair of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Production, Income Protection and Price Support, applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to provide emergency payments to many struggling dairy farmers by December 24th and to expedite the purchase of cheese and cheese products to be donated to federal nutrition programs.  The $290 million in emergency payments and $60 million in cheese purchases is part of the FY 2010 Agriculture and related agencies appropriations bill.

“The emergency funds provide critical short-term assistance to Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers and will help to keep the lights on in milking parlors throughout the holiday season,” said Senator Casey.  “Dairy farmers are receiving the lowest price for their milk since the 1970s.  These funds provide some much needed support for our dairy farmers and the economy in Pennsylvania.”

“It’s wonderful that we are able to provide food to people in need by purchasing cheese for food banks, which have seen a huge increase in numbers of people seeking assistance during these difficult economic times,” added Senator Casey. “This is the kind of help we need to support Pennsylvania agriculture and to supply our food banks with food they need to fulfill their mission of making sure not one more Pennsylvanian goes hungry.”

Senator Casey was a vocal advocate for a total package of $350 billion for dairy farmers and dairy products that originally passed the Senate in August. In addition to the $290 million in direct payments, the bill provided $60 million for the purchase of dairy products.

Earlier this year, milk prices fell dramatically and have not yet returned to levels that cover the cost of production. The dairy industry is currently facing a crisis that is a serious threat to Pennsylvania’s already impaired economy. Without short-term assistance, the Northeast could lose up to 25% of its family dairy farms.

In response to the challenges dairy farmers in Pennsylvania are facing, Senator Casey wrote a letter to Secretary Vilsack in November asking that he expedite distribution of emergency dairy payments.

Senator Casey and Senator Gillibrand, Chair of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Domestic and Foreign Marketing, Inspection and Plant and Animal Health, held a joint subcommittee hearing earlier this year to examine short-term and long-term solutions to the dairy crisis. The hearing was an important step in developing meaningful policy solutions.


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