NY farmers forced to dump product as revenue streams dry up
WASHINGTON, DC — Following the passage of the bipartisan $2 trillion CARES Act, which included $9.5 billion in emergency funding for the agricultural sector already suffering massive financial losses due to reduced demand and supply chain disruptions, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer on Monday called on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Purdue to immediately release funding and send aid directly to New York’s struggling farmers.
A Sunday Spectator story detailed how local dairy farmers have been forced to dump loads of milk due to the impact of the coronavirus.
With over 33,000 farms in New York State, Schumer said that with restaurants, schools, and other industries closing nationwide due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, New York farmers are losing major revenue streams.
Given the disruptions in supply chains, rampant food insecurity, and the importance of New York agricultural products in the U.S. food supply, the USDA must expedite the allocation of the $9.5 billion emergency agriculture aid set aside in the CARES Act and prioritize New York farmers, Schumer said.
“New York’s farmers and the New York agricultural industry is the lifeblood of the nation,” said Senator Schumer. “In good times, New York farmers work long hours on tight margins but in the midst of a global pandemic, they are losing revenue streams, suffering huge financial losses and being forced to discard their products during a time when we need a reliable food supply. I fought to make $9.5 billion accessible to help them out during this crisis, and it is imperative that we immediately put those dollars to use. I will not rest until New York farmers have the resources they need to help Americans get food on the table.”
In addition to demanding immediate help for struggling New York farmers, Schumer called for the USDA to take New York dairy producers, specialty crop farmers, and local and organic farms into consideration as among the hardest hit in the nation. The Senator said that some dairy co-ops are directing farmers to dump their milk, indicating a huge loss in revenue for New York agriculture as milk is New York’s #1 agricultural product.
Some farmers dumped more than 100,000 pounds of milk last week, and it is estimated that dairy farmers statewide were forced to dump between 25 million and 35 million pounds. With prices plummeting and processing plants closing, dairy farmers could lose anywhere between $1 million and $1.2 million in the aftermath of COVID-19. Additionally, several cabbage growers have been unable to sell their produce for two weeks and are watching their entire harvest go to waste as their crops in cold storage reach the end of their freshness.
Schumer also emphasized that local farms would be severely impacted by the crisis. Many small, local, and organic farms depend on farmers markets as an avenue to sell their produce, but as states issue stay-at-home orders and some local governments suspend farmers markets altogether, those small farmers are losing a major revenue streams. They also are unable to generate revenue through visitor business and experiencing losses both financially and marketing-wise with the cancellation of food-related festivals that often happen in the spring.
Nurseries are also struggling to survive in the midst of the crisis because they are designated as non-essential businesses, while their large-corporation hardware store competitors are allowed to remain open. Schumer urged the USDA to support small business nurseries as they struggle to get through the crisis.