August 25, 2016

USDA Takes Action to Help Dairy Farmers & Families in Need

At the request of Sens. Reed, Whitehouse and 59 members of Congress, USDA will purchase $20 million worth of cheese from private U.S. dairy farmers for food banks and nutrition assistance programs

Washington, DC – With U.S. dairy farmers struggling to cope with decreasing prices due to low world market prices, increased milk supplies and inventories, and slower demand, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse today commended the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) plan to assist our nation’s farmers by purchasing approximately 11 million pounds of cheese from private U.S. inventories to assist food banks and nutrition assistance programs across the nation. 

USDA estimates dairy cash receipts will total $33.2 billion in 2016, a drop of more than $16 billion from 2014.  In July, Senators Reed and Whitehouse joined 59 of their colleagues in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives in sending a letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging USDA to provide needed assistance to the nation’s struggling dairy farmers.‎

The stop-gap purchase ‎announced this week by USDA is valued at $20 million and will benefit both farmers as well as families in need across the country through USDA nutrition assistance programs.

“Rhode Island dairy farmers make important contributions to our economy and help preserve open space.  Dairy pricing is complex, but there is no question our farmers are being negatively impacted by international market forces beyond their control and this emergency, temporary assistance will help stabilize their operations at a critical moment.  We need to ensure small family farms in Rhode Island and nationwide can get through this challenging time and continue to earn a living,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.

Senator Reed also noted that buying locally produced milk and dairy products is a great way to support Rhode Island dairy farmers and boost the state’s economy.‎

“Everyone can help support Rhode Island’s heritage farmers by buying locally produced milk, cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products. It keeps money flowing into the local economy and cuts down on pollution from shipping.” continued Reed. “Protecting our working farmland is critical to preserving Rhode Island’s heritage and maintaining a diverse economy.  I will continue working to ensure the federal government does its part to help Rhode Island family farmers remain competitive and productive.”

“I am pleased to see the USDA take this important step to begin stabilizing dairy prices, while providing good food for families in need across the country,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Dairy farmers are an important part of our agricultural economy in Rhode Island, and the USDA’s action should help ease the financial pressure on farmers caused by declining milk prices.”

In addition to the purchase of cheese, USDA also announced it will extend the deadline for dairy producers to enroll in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy to December 16, 2016, from the previous deadline of September 30.  This voluntary dairy safety net program provides financial assistance to participating dairy producers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the producer.  A USDA web tool, available at, allows dairy producers to calculate levels of coverage available from MPP based on price projections.

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921