USDA, state implement food and dairy assistance plans

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USDA, state implement food and dairy assistance plans

Fri, 03/27/2009 - 8:12am -- tim

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that approximately 200 million pounds of nonfat dry milk (NDM) will be transferred from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to USDA s Food and Nutrition Service for use in domestic food programs. This will help support families who rely on food assistance programs as well as dairy farmers struggling with low prices and high feed costs.
During these difficult economic times we need to use every tool we have to help those in need whether a family who needs food assistance or dairy farmers who are experiencing record low prices paid to them for their milk, said Governor Douglas.  This move today by my former colleague, Secretary Vilsack, is an important step in supporting our rural communities and family farms.
In February, Governor Douglas and Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee contacted Secretary Vilsak to strongly encourage him to take action to help balance the supply and demand issue of dairy products in the market and recommended that  USDA to consider using some of this surplus for domestic nutrition programs.
There are a number of factors contributing to the downturn in dairy prices and over supply is one of them. I m pleased that Secretary Vilsack took this step to help balance supply and demand, said Roger Allbee, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture. The price swings in the dairy pricing system have become more exaggerated and are not good for anyone the farmers, industry, communities and consumers all suffer from this volatility.
The Vermont Foodbank will benefit directly from this partnership between USDA and the nation s dairy producers.  The product will flow to the Vermont Foodbank primarily through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and some through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).  While we don t know the exact amounts we estimate that it be as much as 80 million pounds of additional dairy products for food banks across the nation, commented Judy Stermer, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the Vermont Foodbank.
Governor Douglas also announced this week a proposal to use $1.5 million of the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF) provided through the federal stimulus package for low interest loans to farmers.  Administered through the Vermont Agriculture Credit Corporation, this plan can leverage an estimated $8 million in Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) financing to be used for such farm operating expenses as feed, fuel and fertilizer.
This money will help Vermont farmers get their spring crops in the ground.  I am committed to doing what I can to support agriculture in Vermont, said Governor Douglas.
Additionally, at the request of Governor Douglas, Secretary Allbee has been working diligently with his counterparts in the Northeast and nationally, dairy farmers, industry leaders, cooperatives and Vermont s Congressional Delegation to investigate ways to create a more stable pricing system for dairy.
Last Friday Dairy Farmers Working Together (DFWT) coordinated a meeting with over 200 producers, industry leaders and dairy representatives from across the nation, said Allbee. I am encouraged that the industry is coming together to address this situation. It is going to take this sort of collaboration to bring about the change that is needed to support dairy farmers in this crisis and to come up with solutions to protect the future of the dairy industry in Vermont.