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State, federal aid for struggling dairy farms won't cover losses

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Oct 16, 2018 7:50 PM
dairy_cows.jpg

FILE PHOTO: (AP Photo/Eric Landwehr)

(Harrisburg) -- Advocates for Pennsylvania's struggling dairy farmers say federal and state programs meant to help are appreciated, but they won't solve the whole problem.

Pennsylvania dairy farmers have reported a drop in milk prices since Trump Administration policies sparked international trade disputes this summer.

According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the price per 100 pounds of milk dropped from $15.25 in June to $14.15 in August. October's price has rebounded to $16.33. 

The state's dairy industry is set to receive $6.4 million out of the $12 billion federal aid program meant to mitigate the effects of retaliatory tariffs.

Mark O' Neill, Media and Strategic Communications Director with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said that aid comes out to 12 cents per 100 pounds of milk.

"It will be something, they'll take it, they'll appreciate it," he said. "But it's not going to make up for the amount of money that they've lost due to this trade dispute." 

State lawmakers recently created the Pennsylvania Dairy Industry Investment Program, which made $5 million in grants available for new research, development, marketing, and processing projects.

O' Neill said that might create some opportunities, but many farmers won't be able to take advantage of it.

"The farmer would have to put in 15 percent cash for the entire project in order to get grant money," he said. "Well, a lot of our farmers may not have that intial cash to get going."

Pennsylvania has lost 200 dairy farms over the past three years, leaving about 6,500 in the state. Prices have been depressed since the market hit a high in 2014. 

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