Dairy Farming Is Essential in District 19

June 9, 2021
Press Release
The Reporter

Dairy farming is a time-honored tradition throughout upstate and a crucial part of our local economy. In New York’s 19th Congressional District – the 8th most rural in the entire country - over 500 dairy farms support more than 2,200 direct jobs, nearly $100 million in wages, and generate an economic impact of $500 million.

I have traveled across all 11 counties in our beautiful district to speak with family farmers. In barns and across kitchen tables, I hear about the hard times as well as the joys of this profession -- and I see the remarkable grit of our dairy farmers. In Congress, I am committed to ensuring our local farmers have the support they need to succeed financially and make an honest living.

The past year has been tough on our dairy farmers – to the point where many were forced to dump milk. More than helping our family farms survive, I am working to make sure they can sustain themselves well into the future.

Last Congress, my bill to aid family farmers was signed into law by President Trump. The Family Farmer Relief Act provides a lifeline to farmers navigating downturns in the farm economy. This bipartisan legislation expands eligibility for Chapter 12 bankruptcy to keep pace with land values and the cost of being a farmer today. This critical bill will ensure that family farms have the financial flexibility to restructure and remain operational during tough times.

As a proud member of the House Agriculture Committee, I have had the opportunity to deliver support and investment to our NY-19 farmers during the pandemic. In the American Rescue Plan alone, we included $3.6 billion in grants and loans to small and mid-sized farms and food processors. When my local NY-19 Agriculture Advisory Committee informed me that our dairy farmers were ineligible or unaware of specific COVID-19 assistance programs, I reached across the aisle to ensure they were included.

This year, I introduced the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act -- bipartisan legislation which allows for unflavored and flavored whole milk to be offered in school cafeterias. This bill would help young people maintain a healthy diet while supporting our upstate dairy farmers and processors. I am also a strong supporter of the Dairy Pride Act, which would require that non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae no longer be confusingly labeled with dairy terms like milk, yogurt, and cheese.

After speaking with dozens of upstate farmers and producers, I know folks are in desperate need of a high-quality, reliable workforce. I cosponsored and helped pass the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would finally allow dairy farmers to access the H2A farmworker program. This bill passed the House with support from Democrats and Republicans - making clear that helping our farmers is bigger than party politics.

Last month, I lead a bipartisan request calling on the Biden Administration to fully enforce USMCA Canadian dairy tariff rate quotas. These provisions are essential to protecting pricing and helping farmers overcome losses from the pandemic. I am proud that the Administration is heeding our call and creating a special dispute panel to protect American dairy.

Dairy is who we are in upstate - it helps run our economy and strengthens our community. I will keep doing everything I can to support dairy farmers and protect this treasured way of life.