(WBNG Binghamton) New York Senator Charles E. Schumer on Thursday announced his plan to authorize a pilot program for a “dairy block grant program,” that would aim to boost dairy farm profitability and efficiency, particularly on smaller farms.
According to a news release from Schumer's office:
As an amendment to the Farm Bill now being considered on the Senate floor, Schumer is pushing for this dairy block grant concept to be tested in a $5 million pilot that would be similar to the popular specialty crops grant program. This would help dairy farmers to access technical expertise related to productivity, profitability, and environmental stewardship. This would particularly cater to smaller dairy farmers who don’t have the resources to independently hire outside consultants for these needs. If created, the pilot program would allow states to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive funding that could then provide technical assistance to individual dairy farmers. This block grant program could allow farmers to bring in animal nutritionists to customize cow feeding programs or specialists on housing and breeding, which would help boost milk production. These grants could also be used to bring in consultants on nutrient management to aid farmers in efforts to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements or an individual who can help farmers write and execute business plans.
Schumer highlighted that the specialty crop block grant program is popular amongst farmers because it gives state departments of agriculture the flexibility to spend federal money as they see fit, and to cater to the unique needs of each state, given that the specialty crop industry in New York is considerably different than that in California or even Alaska, just as the dairy industry varies state by state. Schumer said the dairy block grant pilot program would consider the feasibility of implementing a program like this for dairy, which would be based on the amount of dairy production in each state. For New York, Schumer said this pilot program would be a great fit. The pilot program would strengthen New York dairy farmers by making them more productive—and more profitable—to meet the increase in demand due to the popularity of Greek Yogurt.
“Upstate dairy farmers are huge contributors to the New York State economy, and my amendment to create a dairy block grant program would help make them even more productive and profitable, and would aim to find ways to better exploit the increased demand spurred by the expansion of the Greek yogurt industry. Individual dairy farmers can apply for these grants that would open up an avenue for them to receive technical expertise for nutrition, business management and other resources that they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise,” said Senator Schumer. “A similar block grant program already exists for specialty crops and has paid great dividends. It’s time we focus our attention on keeping the small dairy farms competitive and on the cutting-edge because they create jobs and multiply economic growth.”
“The Dairy Block Grants would serve an important need in New York as the state’s dairy farmers are looking for targeted ways to increase both profitability and environmental stewardship. Helping the effective state programs that are already in place expand their outreach would provide greater access to this valuable expertise. New York Farm Bureau appreciates Senator Schumer working with us on this effort and successfully fighting for our members’ needs in the Farm Bill,” said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau.