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Dairy farmers call for changes at the federal level to make business more sustainable

A dairy farmer in Chemung County believes that the government needs to change the way they handle milk pricing. Currently, dairy farmers are paid by the hundred weight, meaning they receive a set amount of money per 100 pounds of milk based on a formula regulated by Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMOs).

Mark Watts, who runs a dairy farm in Pine City, says that the cost of running a dairy farm has increased with rising costs for fertilizer, diesel fuel, and other expenses. He believes that it would be more equitable for farmers to be paid based on the higher class of milk per hundred weight.

To address these concerns, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has reintroduced the Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act as part of the 2023 Farm Bill negotiations. The act would allow dairy farmers to review proposals for changing the class one milk pricing for skim and whole milk, which are currently separated into four classes: Class I for beverages, Class II for products like cottage cheese and yogurt, Class III for cream cheese and spreadable cheeses, and Class IV for butter.

Watts explains that while the cost of producing milk is increasing, the amount farmers receive for their product is not. He believes that updating the existing guidelines through the passage of Senator Gillibrand’s bill would help keep small and medium-sized farms like his in business.

If passed, the bill would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hold public hearings within six months. Watts says that this is a crucial step in ensuring the longevity of small and medium-sized dairy farms in New York.