Mark O’Neill, Media and Strategic Communications Director
510 S. 31st Street , Camp Hill, PA 17001 • 717.761.2740 • Email • @pfbmediaone
For Immediate Release: August 24, 2016
USDA Secretary Vilsack Responds to Farm Bureau’s Request for Relief
(Camp Hill) – Acting on written requests to provide relief for dairy farmers from Pennsylvania Farm Bureau (PFB) and the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has directed USDA to spend $20 million to purchase 11 million pounds of cheese in order to reduce a cheese surplus that is at its highest level in 30 years.
“The action should provide some relief to struggling Pennsylvania and U.S. dairy farmers, who have been experiencing sharp declines in the price they receive for the milk they produce over the past 12 to 18 months,” said PFB President Rick Ebert. “Although Farm Bureau provided an example of how USDA could buy 28 million pound of cheese for $50 million to cut deeper into the cheese surplus, we appreciate the swift response from Secretary Vilsack, who indicated that the $20 million was the most USDA could spend so close to the end of its fiscal year.”
The cheese will be distributed to USDA’s nutritional programs, including donations to food banks and pantries, soup kitchens and school lunch programs across the country.
In an August 10 letter to Secretary Vilsack, PFB President Ebert outlined a variety of reasons why milk prices have declined and pointed out some of the problems Pennsylvania dairy farmers are facing. “Right now, many dairy farmers are losing money on the milk they produce and borrowing money just to stay in business... and this is certainly not sustainable for long.”
Pennsylvania is the fifth largest dairy producing state in the nation and ranks second in the number of dairy farms, which contribute about $7 billion per year to Pennsylvania’s economy.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization with a volunteer membership of nearly 62,000 farm and rural families, representing farms of every size and commodity across Pennsylvania.