NMPF Pitches in After Hurricane Maria Devastates Puerto Rican Dairy Industry

National Milk has been working closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Infrastructure Protection Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the last month to secure generators and fuel for Puerto Rican dairy producers affected by Hurricane Maria.

With valuable input from NMPF officer Mike McCloskey, who has extensive family connections in Puerto Rico, National Milk has been able to advocate for the needs of the Puerto Rican dairy industry. The organization urged FEMA and USDA to act on the requested multi-million-dollar aid package that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue received from the Puerto Rico governor’s office – a significant portion needed for generator fuel and animal feed. On Oct. 19, USDA announced it was providing up to $12 million dollars to enable operators of Puerto Rico’s 253 dairy operations to purchase feed for their cattle. 

Roughly 25 percent of the island’s 75,000 cows have died or went missing, barns were flattened, trees stripped of foliage and much of the island has no electricity. Farmers have been using generators to milk their cows, but Puerto Rico’s three processing plants are down, so all milk is being dumped. Fuel is difficult to obtain and overworked generators are breaking down.

Shortly after the hurricane hit, FEMA summoned the leadership of its critical infrastructure sectors to FEMA headquarters to discuss the situation and plans for restoring infrastructure. NMPF’s Clay Detlefsen is the chair of the Food and Agriculture sector. NMPF immediately urged the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to provide generators and fuel to the island’s dairy producers, and participated in the daily calls with the National Business Emergency Operations Center and FEMA. In addition, at USDA’s request, NMPF staff joined the Emergency Support Function #11 team, which focuses on agriculture issues.