Connecticut State restore $1.4million subsidies dairy operations

Connecticut State to restore $1.4million in subsidies to dairy operations

Connecticut’s dwindling contingent of dairy farmers was breathing just a bit easier Tuesday after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced he’s been able to restore $1.4 million in subsidies to help dairy operations survive ongoing low milk prices.

The money for this fiscal year’s remaining dairy subsidies was chopped last October as part of the legislature’s struggle to deal with multibillion dollar budget deficits.

“Thank goodness,” was the reaction Tuesday from Matt Freund, a New Canaan dairy farmer, when he learned that the $1.4 million is being restored. “It’s going to help keep us in business long enough for milk prices to come back up,” Freund said of the state subsidy program.

Steven K. Reviczky, state agriculture commissioner, said the subsidy “provides a critical lifeline for Connecticut’s dairy farmers and their families.”

It’s going to help keep us in business long enough for milk prices to come back up. — Matt Freund, New Canaan dairy farmer, on state subsidy program.
The commissioner said milk prices “have been really depressed for a long period of time” and that multiple Connecticut farmers have recently decided to get out of the dairy industry.

“In the last three or four months, quite a few farmers have decided not to plant corn and to sell their cows,” Reviczky said. “I know of at least five personally,” he added.

Connecticut has only about 100 dairy farms left. “A strong and healthy farming community is integral to a strong and healthy Connecticut,” Malloy said.

In the new budget approved earlier this month by the General Assembly, partial funding for the dairy program will be restored for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1. But farmers were increasingly worried that the money they had hoped to get from the state for the final quarter of the current fiscal year had been cut.

Malloy’s administration managed to find the $1.4 million by taking it from money allocated for open space programs in the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, according to Malloy spokesman Leigh Appleby.

Appleby said the open space programs can be “funded through bonding and other means… In short, this reduction is less impactful then the strain on dairy farmers.”

Freund and his brother Bill Freund have about 300 milk cows on their East Canaan farm. Matt Freund said there has been a glut of U.S. produced milk on the market for the past three years, in large part because of the loss of international customers like Mexico and increased milk production in nations around the world.

Freund said the problems with U.S. milk sales abroad isn’t solely the result of President Donald Trump’s recent threats of trade wars or his desire to renegotiate trade agreements with Mexico and Canada. “It started before Donald Trump and it’s just escalated since Donald Trump,” Freund said.

In the last three or four months, quite a few farmers have decided not to plant corn and to sell their cows, — Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky.

“It’s been devastating to farmers,” Freund said of the span of remarkably low milk prices. He said his family’s farm hasn’t made any profits for the past three years and that the state subsidy is nothing more than “a stopgap measure… to help you get through the tough times.”

According to Reviczky, the current subsidy kicks in when the price dairy farmers are paid for their product drops below $16.50 per 100 pounds of milk. Freund said the average cost for Connecticut farmers to produce 100 pounds of milk is more than $20.

Reviczky said the dairy subsidy account has been repeatedly cut in recent years because of the state’s ongoing budget problems. The money for the fund comes from a $40 fee on real estate transactions, with about $10 of that fee going into the dairy subsidy account and the rest being split up for a variety of other state and local programs.

Despite the loss of dairy farms in recent years, Reviczky said the number of milk cows in Connecticut “has remained consistent and the production of milk has gone up” as a result of production improvements.


Source: Hartford Courant

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