Lawmakers in Northeast seek USDA support for organic dairy farmers

Vermont

Congressional delegations from Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and Maine are asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to help dozens of organic dairy farms that will lose their contracts with Horizon Organic next year.

The lawmakers, led by Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch, want the U.S. Department of Agriculture to place more regulations around large-scale producers like Horizon, whose parent company Danone has notified 89 Northeast dairy farms that starting next September it will no longer buy their milk.

In a letter to Vilsack, the delegations urged the USDA to finalize an amendment to the origin of livestock rule that has been in the works since 2015. The amended rule would eliminate a loophole used by large-scale dairy farms and create uniform standards for transitioning conventional livestock to organic dairy production.

Dairy farmers across the country say the ongoing delay has contributed to an oversupply of organic milk and kept smaller farms in the Northeast at a financial disadvantage. The letter asked the USDA to take other steps, including temporary price supports, to help the farms find new markets for their products.

“We respectfully request that you use any tools at your disposal and work quickly to support the farmers affected by Danone’s decision. This includes increased support through USDA’s pandemic assistance for producers program.”  

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik says she’ll work with the USDA to ensure North Country dairy farmers are supported. She said they “work tirelessly, and I am proud to work to find targeted solutions to support them.” 

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