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Gillibrand pushes ways to preserve small dairy farms

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The US Senate is preparing to take up the federal Farm Bill again in the coming weeks.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants it to include a plan to protect and encourage New York's dairy farms, especially smaller farms.

Responding to concerns voiced by North Country farmers, her plan would guarantee a margin of profitability to farms with 200 cows or less.

Gillibrand spoke by phone with reporters Tuesday. She said protecting small farms nationwide is a top priority.

“I really don’t want to see consolidation a in the dairy industry. Once you have consolidation, the likelihood of outsourcing increases greatly. And I don’t want to buy milk from China or any other country.  I want to have wholesome dairy production in all parts of the country.”

Gillibrand said New York will always be a home for small dairies.

“It’s very difficult to grow from a 200 cow dairy to 2,000 cows. And it’s very rare. So we want to make sure we keep the diary production we do have, and allow that to grow naturally.”

Gillibrand quoted USDA numbers tracking the recent decline of farms in New York State: nearly 65,000 cows lost in the last decade. She blamed flawed policies, chief among them — the way the price farmers are paid for their milk is set. She said she’s been working to change the dairy pricing system since her years in the House of Representatives. 

“This whole idea is really important. Because people want to know why can’t you price milk accurately, reflecting the cost of production, of feed and fuel? Until we come up with a new pricing system I think our small dairies will continue to be the hardest hit, and the first hit, which is why they keep going out of business."

The bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, would force the USDA to begin the process of restructuring the dairy pricing system and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to release the Department’s recommendations to Congress.

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