NEW JERSEY – Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho and Senate President Steve Sweeney that would assist New Jersey dairy farms struggling to survive was endorsed today by the Senate Economic Growth Committee.
The bill, S-3465, would direct the State Department of Agriculture to provide reimbursement to dairy farmers for annual premiums paid to participate in the federal Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.
“Who doesn’t enjoy a ride through New Jersey’s dairy farming communities? The open space pasture and seeing the cows. And what child is not wide-eyed when they get to see it up close and real?” Oroho (R-Sussex/Warren/Morris) said. “Unfortunately that could all be lost, because unlike what most of us realize, underlying this beautiful scene is a dedicated life that for New Jersey dairy farmers is extremely unpredictable. Too often is has become a losing and unsustainable proposition.
“This legislation is an effort to help save our state’s remaining dairy farmers,” Oroho said.
Oroho noted that not long ago, the Garden State was home to more than 400 dairy farms, but today the number has dropped below 50.
“This legislation will help preserve the remaining farms, protecting them from unstable milk prices in the marketplace that threaten profitability, and enabling them to remain in business in a stress-filled environment,” Oroho said.
Established by the federal 2018 Farm Bill, the DMC is essentially an annual insurance policy against milk prices too low to cover overhead.
“With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis teaching hard lessons on risk management throughout agriculture and with dairy margins expected to be volatile over the next year, farmers need the option of securing coverage under the dairy margin program,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland) said. “This program offers certainty in times of need. The coverage is designed to protect individuals from having to pay very high out-of-pocket costs, and offers coverage in times of emergencies.”
A voluntary risk management tool for dairy producers, the program issues payments when the national average income-over-feed-cost margin falls below a coverage determined by the individual farmers.
The legislation would encourage participation in the program and make it easier for farmers to afford the coverage.
Only 23 dairy farmers, barely half the milk producers in New Jersey, applied to participate in the program in 2019.