October 3rd, 2021

St. Lawrence County’s Congresswoman in the 21st district is pushing the USDA secretary to support regional organic dairy farmers after one of the main markets for organic dairy milk in the Northeast terminated contracts with farms in the region.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik recently joined Northeastern lawmakers in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to support small- and mid-sized organic dairy farmers.Stefanik joined this effort to work towards solutions after Horizon Organic announced its plans to terminate contracts with about 80 dairy farmers in the Northeast, a few of which are in St. Lawrence County.

According to the St. Lawrence County 2017 Ag Census, there are about 75 organic farms (16 with sales under $5,000 and 59 with sales over $5,000) in St. Lawrence County, out of 1,253 farms countywide. However, organic farms in the county produce about $10 million in sales, which makes up about 10 percent of the total ag sales for the county estimated to be around $191 million.

“Our North Country dairy farmers work tirelessly, and I am proud to work to find targeted solutions to support them,” Stefanik said. “I am committed to working with the USDA to provide the North Country’s dairy farmers the support they need during this time of transition.

Specifically in the letter, the lawmakers requested Vilsack to close loopholes that put organic dairy farmers at a disadvantage, strengthen enforcement of organic dairy regulations to help stabilize markets long-term, and support the farmers who face contract termination by August 2022.

“In addition to restoring and preserving the integrity of the organic seal, we respectfully request that you use any tools at your disposal and work quickly to support the farmers affected by Danone’s decision and work with stakeholders to expand market channels for their products,” they wrote. “This includes targeted and increased support through USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers program, targeted investments in processing capacity and transportation efficiencies for businesses that can contract with these farmers, as well as temporary price supports to allow these farmers to transition to new markets.”

Read the full article here.