The men and women who toil long hours, tilling the soil, raising animals and growing crops to put food on tables in Greene and Columbia counties hold an edge in getting financial help when times are bad.
Plummeting milk prices — particularly for dairy farms in Columbia and Greene counties — is an unfortunate turn of events. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help dairy farmers in the state with $300 million in emergency relief.
Gillibrand, who has fought vigorously on behalf of all farmers, called the plight of dairy farms “a crisis in our backyard.” Many farmers live in poverty and are unable to pay their bills. As they fall deeper into debt, they are forced to sell their farmland to the highest bidder, yet at a considerable loss.
“Dairy farms are the heart and soul of our rural communities,” the state’s junior senator said at a news conference at A. Ooms & Sons Dairy Farm in Valatie on Tuesday.
As generous as Gillibrand’s appeal sounds, it’s important to consider the dollar figure of $300 million and how much each dairy farm will share from the overall pot of money.
Aid of $300 million is a credible, if steep, price for what amounts to a bailout of state dairy farms, but the amount per farm of $8,000 in emergency funds sounds insufficient to have anything but an extremely short-term impact. To coin an old horse-farm adage, it’s hardly enough to pay the feed bill.
Some farmers would no doubt benefit from the aid. But local dairy farmers are sending a clear message that milk prices are bottoming out and with that, so are their chances of survival in the long-term. Gillibrand is to be commended for acting in the best interests of our dairy farmers, but the relief she seeks might be too little, too late.