The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

April 17, 2013

Feds should help save dairy farmers

The Daily Star

---- — Your editorial of April 8 asked Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Schumer to “just show dairy farmers the money.” Past increases in the government’s raw milk support price have led to more production. This seems to be The Daily Star’s answer. Both local farmers and the Greek yogurt industry would benefit.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Higher prices for milk produced in New York will result in more purchases of less-expensive milk from western producers, thus leaving local farmers with even smaller markets. Our state is already being targeted by larger, more efficient California dairy farmers. Who hasn’t seen their ads promoting “happy” California cows?

Protecting local farmers from out-of-state competition is impossible. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1935 invalidated a New York law prohibiting the sale of milk brought into the state. New York had argued that the law was necessary to prevent price competition. Under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, states cannot put restrictions on this commerce.

How about using federal laws to enforce higher raw milk prices nationwide? Not only might this raise retail prices and depress overall consumption, resulting in surpluses that the U.S. government would have to buy up and store, it might also cost the industry its newly won export markets. 

Last year, more than 13 percent of U.S. dairy production was exported. By international treaty, the United States cannot use export subsidies to offset higher domestic prices, so raising the support price might well lead to the loss of over $5 billion in U.S. dairy sales overseas.

This is the harsh reality. Local dairy farmers are boxed in by market forces, the U.S. Constitution and international trade law. Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Schumer can do little, if anything, about it.

Richard Blabey