Guest Commentary: Our dairy farm’s future depends on USMCA

New York is home to more than 4,000 dairy farms. Our dairy cows and the dairy farmers who care for them are an important part of our rural communities. They provide nutritious food for our families, help support local businesses that keep our economies alive, and care for the beautiful open space that adds to the spectacular beauty of the Catskills.

This time of the year is busy for all of us here at Del-Rose Farm. Although we are a small business, we are not like most of the millions of other small businesses that create jobs in America. First, like every other day of the entire year, we have 60 head of cows to milk twice each day, and have another 80 head of dry cows, heifers and calves to care for, too. But summer means we are also busy putting in 25,000 bales of dry hay, putting up haylage, and will soon start cutting corn for silage for our herd. The days are long, but there is a pride we take in knowing that we love our cattle and take the very best care of them possible, and in return they help us feed people.

We are a family operation. We have seven children, and our ability to survive has rested on all of us working together. We would not have made it otherwise. Dairy farming is a fulfilling job, but it is challenging to be successful. We are at the mercy of weather, the health of our animals and plants, rising production costs and the hugely severe cyclical ups and downs of the milk markets. Although there are many times when we are operating at a loss, we have managed to continue to do it, because we love what we do, but it is becoming more and more difficult.

Our three sons have all returned to the farm, infusing a new energy into our operation. We feel very fortunate that some of our children chose to return, and we hope to be able to pass our farming legacy to future generations. However, that legacy is at risk.

What was once a booming dairy market has been negatively impacted by low milk prices and high production costs, and now trade disputes that have hurt exports. Dairy farms in our state as well as across the nation have been forced to close, harming the rural economies that rely on the revenue and employment generated by these farms.

The dairy market is a global market. Our dairy farms have been challenged to feed not only our nation, but also the growing world population, and our industry has risen to meet this challenge. The survival of our dairy farm requires dependable and growing markets that expand demand for the high-quality milk our cows produce.

One out of every seven gallons of milk produced by dairy farms across the U.S. is exported to international markets. Those sales abroad result in increased opportunities here at home. It is estimated that dairy exports create more than 5,000 jobs here in New York and generate more than $600 million in economic impact.

Congress has an immediate opportunity to increase these markets and secure key trading relationships with our North American neighbors by passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

USMCA will safeguard our trade relationship with Mexico and expand our opportunities to sell dairy products to the currently highly restricted dairy market in Canada. Passing USMCA will expand market access in Canada for other agricultural products too, resulting in increased economic benefits to farmers of all kinds throughout our region.

Congress has an important opportunity to support farms and rural communities across this country, including here in my Delaware County and the rest of New York, by working with the administration to successfully pass USMCA.

America’s farmers are just asking for Washington to work together and implement these positive upgrades to NAFTA. And soon

Hanselman, her husband, Ernest, and their three sons own and operate Del-Rose Farm in Bloomville.

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