The Farmers Cow is a cooperative of local dairy farmers working together to keep their dairy business viable. Courtesy photo. ----------
Editor’s note: This bill was passed by the House of Representatives tonight, June 3, and now heads to Gov. Rell’s desk. She has said she intends to sign the bill into law.
A proposal aimed at supporting Connecticut’s $1 billion dairy industry passed unanimously in the state Senate with strong bipartisan support led by Sen. Don Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-Goshen).
Currently there are 151 dairy farms in Connecticut, a significant decline from 500 dairy farms in 1990, and 210 in 2007.
Dairy farms currently account for more than 83,000 acres in cropland, of which 30,000 acres is officially-preserved farmland.
At the same time, according to a 2009 University of Connecticut economic analysis, the state dairy industry generates:
- About $1.1 billion in sales
- Approximately 4,200 jobs
- $145 million to $208 million in personal income
These farms also support related industries, including feed suppliers, fertilizer and seed suppliers, veterinary services, equipment manufacturers and distributors, processing equipment, packing materials, refrigeration, transportation and energy.
And in 2008, Connecticut dairy farmers produced 351 million pounds of milk, of which 40 percent was consumed in the state.
Direct grants for dairy farmers
Senate Bill 891, approved by a vote of 35-0, changes how dollars would be distributed under the Community Investment Account, in a grants program funded by a $40 fee for recording municipal land documents.
Under the current funding formula, the money is divided 25 percent each for:
- the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism for heritage preservation,
- the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) for affordable housing,
- the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for municipal open space
- and the Department of Agriculture for agriculture viability grants and farmland preservation.
According to the governor’s office last year (Fiscal Year 2008), the total amount generated for the Community Investment Account was about $18 million, and divided among the four agencies at approximately $4.5 million per agency.
Mountain Dairy in Mansfield is one of the oldest in Connecticut. Courtesy photo.
Under the new bill, 60 percent of Fiscal Year 2009 revenues would be divided equally between heritage preservation, affordable housing and open space.
The remaining 40 percent would be awarded as direct grants to dairy farmers to help them stay in business. The bill also sets a “sunset” or expiration date for the new formula of July 1, 2011.
A 25 percent drop
Under the federal milk pricing system, during the first quarter of 2009 state dairy farmers received approximately $1.07 for each gallon of milk produced, compared to $1.42 a gallon in 1998, a drop in price of nearly 25 percent.
“In these difficult economic times, this is a home-grown industry that we simply cannot afford to lose,” said Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams (D-Brooklyn). “It is important that Connecticut’s dairy farms don’t get plowed over by global economic forces that are beyond their control.”
“We cannot take for granted the thousands of acres related to the dairy industry, and that we all enjoy as open space and that is essential to Connecticut’s character. I thank the governor for continuing to work with us, [and] legislators from both chambers and parties, to help craft a solution.”
Commenting today on the bill’s progress, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said, “This issue is about saving an important part of Connecticut’s economy and cultural heritage. We have lost far too many dairy farms in recent years to high production costs and development pressure.”
She also thanked Sen. Williams and Sen. Roraback for their support saying, “Their districts include many of the family dairy farms and pristine countryside we as a state have worked so hard to preserve.”
Gov. Rell also directed Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture to work with other states in the Northeast to help bring change to the federal milk pricing system.
For more information on the state’s dairy industry visit the state Dept. of Agriculture Web site by clicking here .
For more information about the local dairy cooperative The Farmer’s Cow – and upcoming events – visit their Web site at http://www.thefarmerscow.com/home.html
To learn more about Mountain Dairy in Mansfield visit their site at http://www.mountaindairy.com/
Posted June 3, 2009