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Schumer announces he has secured an extension for Dairy Margin Coverage Program

By Press Release
charles schumer
Sen. Charles Schumer during a dairy farm press conference in Pavilion in June.
File photo by Howard Owens.

Press Release: 

After standing with Upstate NY dairy farmers in Central NY, the North Country, and the Finger Lakes, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed that he has secured an extension for the vital Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) Program dairy farmers rely on, that was set to expire this year, and which could’ve left farmers facing a “dairy cliff,’ cutting off payments to farmers and harming consumers by raising the price of milk. Schumer secured the extension of the Farm Bill in the Continuing Resolution budget deal which President Biden signed today.

“Our dairy farmers are the beating heart of Upstate, and when they came to me worried that this year we could be going over the ‘dairy cliff,’ I immediately started ringing the cowbell and promised I would churn up support to ensure these payments wouldn’t lapse. I helped enact the Dairy Margin Coverage Program in the 2018 Farm Bill, and I am proud to have secured this vital year-long extension while we work to develop a bipartisan Farm Bill in the next year,” said Senator Schumer. “Today our dairy farmers can breathe a sigh of relief and raise a glass of Upstate NY-made milk and more thoroughly enjoy this Thanksgiving.”

Schumer explained the “dairy cliff” refers to the expiration of the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, a risk management tool that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. The dairy industry would be the first impacted, as dairy farmers would lose out on monthly payments through the DMC, whereas farmers participating in other support programs are paid just once per year around harvest time. If we went “over the dairy cliff” that would have meant an end to monthly price support payments to dairy farmers who participate in the Dairy Margin Coverage program, supply chain disruptions causing increased milk prices, and potentially billions in wasted government spending as the federal government would be forced to make milk purchases at a highly inflated price.

Schumer fought tooth and nail to include a one-year Farm Bill extension in the Continuing Resolution budget deal and ensure dairy farmers were protected from going over the cliff at the end of the year. The extension keeps the vital Dairy Margin Coverage Program intact for another year to protect NY’s critical dairy industry while also giving members of Congress extra time to continue to work through the negotiations for the full Farm Bill.

The dairy industry is one of New York's largest contributor to the agricultural economy. According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Dairy statistics, there are approximately 3,200 dairy farms in New York that produce over 15 billion pounds of milk annually, making New York the nation’s fifth largest dairy state.

sen charles schumer
Sen. Charles Schumer during a dairy farm press conference in Pavilion in June.
File photo by Howard Owens.

Schumer: Affordable dairy products, jobs depend on passage of Farm Bill

By Howard B. Owens
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer addresses the press about the Dairy Margin Coverage program and the 2023 Farm Bill at Har-Go Farms in Pavilion on Monday.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Sen. Charles Schumer traveled to Har-Go Dairy in Pavilion on Monday to warn that without passage of a 2023 Farm Bill, a program that helps dairy farms stay in business could expire in September.

Dairy Margin Coverage, a kind of insurance program that is taxpayer-subsidized but also funded by fees paid by dairy farmers, helps keep milk and cheese prices stable for consumers.

“Loss of the program,” Schumer said, "would cause huge supply chain disruption and market panic, which means less available milk. The price of milk would go way up. So even if you don't even have a farmer in your family, even if you don't even know a single farmer, you will be hurt if this program goes out because the price of milk will go up and all the other things that milk is used in would go up as well. The cost of milk could potentially double."

DMC is a voluntary risk management program for dairy farmers. It pays producers the difference in the price of milk, which is regulated by the federal government, and the cost of feed. It helps ensure that dairy farmers don't suffer catastrophic losses if feed prices rise unexpectedly.  Feed for dairy cows is a commodity with prices set by global markets.  Any sort of international crisis, whether political or environmental, can cause prices to spike.

"We don't want these small farmers to be buffeted about and actually put out of business by international forces that are beyond their control," Schumer said.

Schumer noted that employers such as HP Hood and O-AT-KA Milk Products, along with other businesses in Genesee County that are dependent on the dairy industry, employ more than 1,000 people locally.

"And we all know that milk from happy, healthy Uupstate New York cows tastes better than the milk from anywhere else in the nation," Schumer said.

The Farm Bill, which is renewed by Congress every five years, is in jeopardy because of greater partisanship, with harder lines being drawn, in Washington, Schumer said.

"There's a group of people who just want to just cut all the spending across the board," Schumer said. "Instead of just looking at where the waste is, and keeping good programs like this one. Usually, we prevail. But this year, things are pretty hot in Washington. That's why I'm here. I'm making a big push to make sure this program is sustained."

Shelley Stein, a dairy farmer in Le Roy and chair of the Genesee County Legislature, said maintaining the DMC is critical to the survival of the area's dairy farms, and the cost of the program is just a sliver of the overall spending authorized by the Farm Bill.

"Ninety-eight percent of the Farm Bill is used and directed to programs that feed people in America, and only two percent of that entire bill goes into farm programs,” she said. “So, only two percent of the spending goes to make sure that we can feed the rest of America."

Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
John T. Gould, President and Chairman of the Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. Board of Directors and Owner of Har-Go Farm.
Har-Go is a 250-head dairy operation on South Street Road in Pavilion.
He said, "The critically important Dairy Margin Coverage which provides an effective safety net for New York dairy farmers.  Over the last several months, farmers have struggled to make ends meet, and the Dairy Margin Coverage program has helped to bridge that gap.  An on-time farm bill will ensure that this vital program does not lapse and can continue to help dairy farmers when they need it most.”
Photo by Howard Owens
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer shakes the hand of Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein and says, "Shelley's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. You hear about a lot of the partisan stuff in Washington. But this is a metaphor. We're not going to let partisanship get in the way of supporting our farmers." Stein responds, "You're right."
Photo by Howard Owens.
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer posses with the Gould family following his press conference in Pavilion on Monday. Har-Go Farms is a fifth-generation dairy farm.
Photos by Howard Owens.
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
"And we all know that milk from happy, healthy Uupstate New York cows tastes better than the milk from anywhere else in the nation." -- Sen. Charles Schumer
Photo by Howard Owens.

Immigration reform tops the list of concerns during Tenney's farm tour stop in Batavia Tuesday

By Howard B. Owens


Dairy prices and substitute labeling, crop insurance, support for specialty crops, soil health, nutrition programs, agricultural research, inflation, and invasive species were all topics that farmers in the region brought to Congresswoman Claudia Tenney Tuesday at the Old Courthouse in Batavia,

Tenney, who has been representing Genesee County as part of the redrawn NY-24 since January, made Batavia the first stop on a tour of the district to discuss potential provisions in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Congress passes a new Farm Bill every five years. The Farm Bill is most notably known for providing crop insurance and other assistance to farmers to deal with the nature-driven inherent risks of agriculture and the trade barriers that often make selling their commodities more difficult.  But it also deals with a host of other issues related to farming.

While all of those topics were discussed, the topic most often broached by speakers on Tuesday was immigration.  Farmers are tired of seeing their workers fear deportation, and they want to increase the labor supply to help them remain productive.

"I've been involved with immigration and immigration issues since the Reagan administration," said Kim Zuber, owner of Zuber Farms in Byron. "Our first Hispanic employee, back in 1980, the first kid we got was 21. He had a green card, and he became a citizen through the Reagan administration. I've been in Washington many, many times, and this is a political football by the left and right, and we pay the price. They practically make criminals of us on the question of papers. We are sick of being in the middle of this political football. We really would appreciate it if somebody would stand up and say, 'Enough.' These people are our fellow human beings. Sure, surely, bad people come across the border, but the people who work on these farms are supporting themselves and their families. They're good people. They got families and kids just like us. It's just sad. We are sick of being the football between the left and the right."

Natasha Sutherland, from Stein Farms in Le Roy, was the first speaker of the day and, after talking at length about dairy prices and the regulations that control them, opened the immigration discussion by noting that there are people entering the country on a daily basis, risking their lives, to provide for their families.  Often these farmworkers are supporting families they left behind. 

"These people deserve to live and work without fear of deportation," Sutherland said.

The next speaker, Pat McCormick, reiterated some of Sutherland's points.

"We need to improve," he said. "We need to be able to get the farmworkers that we need here and have the paperwork they need so that they're not afraid to go to the hospital and not afraid to go to the grocery store."

He added, "They are a vital part of our community and are a vital support to their people back home, so we need to fix that problem." 

Another farmer spoke about one of his workers who witnessed a murder and was initially afraid to speak to authorities for fear of deportation. Eventually, he did provide evidence that helped get the killer convicted, but the farmer said farmworkers shouldn't have to face that kind of fear.

"It brings people to tears," he said. "These guys and girls are people. They're one of us. They deserve more respect than we give them."

Tenney Supports Immigration Reform
In her closing remarks, Tenney told the farmers she heard their concerns about immigration and is seeking to address it.  In an interview with The Batavian after the meeting, Tenney said she supports providing a pathway for undocumented farmworkers to stay in the country without fear and that she would particularly like to help dairy farmers help their workers here on H2A visas stay in the country all year long. She also supports an increase in immigration from Mexico and South America so long as it's legal, protects the safety of Americans, and ensures farmers are getting workers who work hard and obey the laws of the country.

She acknowledged the need for more workers but said it's also essential -- especially in New York where farmers are facing increased costs because of new overtime rules and the threat of unionization -- to lower the costs for farmers to retain the workers they have.

"These visa programs are really just a bureaucratic disaster right now for them," Tenney said. 

She explained, "What we're trying to do in the Farmworker Modernization Act is come up with a way to make (the H2A visa program) a year-round program, to make the touchback point, the consulate of (their home) country, which would be in New York State. That touchback would be to go and renew the visas and make it a more streamlined process. We would still go through all the criminal records. The farmers would be given some security as to the types of people that are coming to work in their operations. And it would provide us with some oversight as opposed to now, where we sort of have people in the shadows. We want to make sure good, hardworking people who are willing to come here, do the hard work, and that we can actually do it in a more streamlined fashion that is less cost costly to the farmers."

Asked about the fact that oftentimes Republican politicians oppose providing a pathway for undocumented workers to remain in the country, who are the kind of experienced workers farmers want to keep. Tenney said she is sympathetic to the frustration expressed by those views because she personally knows people who have waited 20 years to come into the country and become citizens through a documented, legal process.

But she also understands that people who came here to work and are working, are the kind of people we should want in the country.

"They're not coming here across the border to human traffic, to traffic drugs, to engage in surveillance," Tenney said. After accusing the Chinese of sending people to the U.S. to engage in surveillance, she continued, "We want to make sure that we provide a legal path so that the farmers are protected, the farmworkers are protected, and we know that the people who are working on these farms are productive and are no threat to American citizens in any way. They will ultimately at least have a path to legalization if they're not already legal."

Tenney is aware of the shortage of workers in the U.S. economy and understands the complexity around the issue of a large number of prime-working-age men not joining the labor force and said, yes, immigrants can help bridge that gap.

"We are seeing a great need, not just in farming, but across every sector," Tenney said. "We need people to come and work and create growth in our economy. Without growth, we're not going to deal with our deficits, we're not going to deal with the needs that we have."

While she supported the Farmworker Modernization Act, she thinks Republicans can and will come up with a better reform bill.

"Republicans are for allowing legal immigration," Tenney said. "We want the rule of law to be respected, and I think a lot of illegal immigrants don't know any better, to be honest with you, because they're being trafficked."

She blamed cartels for pushing illegal immigrants, including children, into the country in order to disrupt border security, even on the northern border.

"Nothing is more disheartening than my visit to the border and seeing just how much control the cartels have," Tenney said. "The confusion, the chaos, the large numbers coming across, the lack of ability for the Customs and Border Patrol to really handle this (is disheartening)."

There is a middle ground on immigration reform, she said, that doesn't involve lawlessness. There can be a sensible plan that respects the rule of law, and she believes that is what farmers are looking for.

Some economists project the U.S. is short about one million workers. Tenney said she isn't opposed to a million immigrants entering the company to fill jobs so long as it is legal. 

"That's something that we have to negotiate, but I think there is a very few numbers of people who are against having more people come into the country legally," Tenney said. "There's a very small number that may think this is a burden on taxpayers. I look at (immigrants) as people who are going to produce growth, and if we're producing growth, and we have a larger output and more labor, you're going to see us prosper. We're going to be able to cut down our deficit and actually bring more prosperity. I see growth as the answer."

Photos by Howard Owens.  Top photo: Rep. Claudia Tenney speaking during opening remarks.



Assemblyman Steve Hawley spoke briefly about the budget deadlock in Albany and how the deadlock is costing taxpayers money.

"They are intransigent," Hawley said. "They are refusing to do anything about bail reform or spending $240 billion a year of our taxpayer money. Every day that we were in Albany, 213 senators and assembly members cost you and me $40,000 a day. We've been there six days looking at not one budget bill, that's a quarter of a million dollars. Now, that pales in comparison to $240 billion, but a penny is a penny, and a dollar is a dollar, and there is a quarter of a million dollars being paid to individuals getting nothing done. It is tragic."


Natasha Sutherland, Stein Farms.


Seating in the Old Courthouse was nearly filled with farmers from throughout the region, most of whom did not speak during the meeting. Among those in attendance was Daniel Swyers, a dairy farmer from Perry.


While Tenney asks a farmer a follow-up question, County Legislative Chair Shelley Stein listens.

Tenney announces Farm Bill listening tour with stop in Batavia on April 4

By Press Release


Press release:

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) today announced her upcoming Farm Bill Listening Tour to hear directly from constituents about issues impacting our agriculture industry in New York’s 24th District.

Every five years, Congress passes legislation that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policies. This legislation is commonly called the “Farm Bill” and will be considered this year by Congress. Tenney is hosting a series of roundtables to hear directly from farmers and producers about issues facing the agriculture industry in New York’s 24th District.

New York’s 24th District is the largest agriculture and dairy district in the Northeast, producing dairy, beef, crops, wine, apples, and more. In addition, Wayne County ranks third in the nation for apple production.

“As your voice in Congress, it is essential that I hear directly from you about the issues facing our community,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “Our sprawling district, the largest agriculture-producing district in the Northeast, is home to so many hardworking farmers who feed our community, state, and nation. I am committed to hearing from them about their top priorities as we prepare for the consideration of the 2023 Farm Bill. I will always be a tenacious advocate for our region’s agriculture community.”

Please see the schedule below for upcoming roundtable sessions. Those interested in attending should use this link to RSVP. If you cannot attend an in-person session, you can also submit your views virtually using the same link above.

Western New York Farm Bill Roundtable
Tuesday, April 4th, 10 a.m. Old Courthouse
7 Main St., Batavia

Central NY & North Country Farm Bill Roundtable
Wednesday, April 5th, 10 a.m. Oswego County Legislative Chamber
46 E Bridge St., 4th Floor Oswego

Finger Lakes Farm Bill Roundtable
Thursday, April 6th, 10 a.m. Phelps Community Center
8 Banta St., #100, Phelps

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens.

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