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Long-Awaited Disaster Assistance Comes After NMPF Efforts

October 4, 2023

NMPF on Sept. 11 applauded USDA’s announcement it will provide critical, long-awaited financial assistance for dairy farmers affected by natural disasters, which came after years of lobbying the agency for a plan to administer the aid approved by Congress.

The Milk Loss Assistance program administered by the Farm Service Agency will compensate eligible dairy farms and processors for milk dumped due to qualifying disaster events in 2020, 2021 and 2022, including droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, derechos, excessive heat, winter storms and smoke exposure.

“On top of the challenges created by wild price gyrations and the COVID-19 pandemic, dairy farmers since 2020 have also faced an inadequate federal mechanism for addressing unforeseen weather catastrophes, further straining finances at a time when strains have been hard to bear,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.

“NMPF never accepted that situation, and we’re very appreciative of USDA’s diligent work over several months to finalize the compensation plan that will address this backlog of disaster assistance. We thank Congress for providing this necessary funding, and we encourage both Congress and USDA to find ways to address future natural disasters more quickly. We also urge farmers affected by these disasters to sign up, and we stand ready to assist them as they go through this process.”

Since Congress approved funding in 2021, NMPF has held numerous meetings with FSA (Farm Service Agency) staff highlighting dairy farmers’ disaster needs. Most recently, NMPF helped provide USDA with cost estimates for the program to help speed up its implementation and met with Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie to urge action on the issue. NMPF also sent a public letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that funds be released quickly and engaged with members of Congress to ensure accountability, among other initiatives.

These efforts came on top of NMPF advocacy for the funds to be included in legislation, a wide-ranging effort that involved grassroots activism and many meetings with dairy champions in Congress. The Milk Loss Program will help farmers and, in certain cases, cooperatives, recover losses previously overlooked by disaster assistance.

Dairy farmers and cooperatives can sign up for the Milk Loss Program through Oct. 16. Affected producers are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible. For eligibility and application information, as well as details about how payments will be calculated, visit USDA’s Milk Loss Assistance program announcement.