WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken, and Dairy State Senators urged Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to take immediate action with USDA programs that can assist dairy farmers harmed by restrictive Canadian trade barriers. The USDA has the authority to assist farmers now by helping them to market their milk, develop new markets and increase the uses of their milk. The agency also has the authority to purchase surplus dairy products and provide them to feed families in need.
“We urge you to take action now and use this tool to ensure that our farm families will have the chance to continue their livelihood,” the senators wrote. “The dairy industry has responded swiftly to the crisis facing our farmers whose lives have been upended by this trade policy. However, the clock is ticking and more action is needed now to ensure our dairy farmers are not put out of business by trade politics and dairy policies set in Canada.”
Last week, Klobuchar and Franken led Minnesota’s Congressional Delegation in urging the President to support Minnesota dairy farmers through strong enforcement of our trade laws with Canada. Yesterday, it was reported that all Grassland-affected Minnesota farms that lost contracts on the heels of new Canadian dairy regulations, which took effect in February in most provinces, have secured agreements to sell their milk beyond May 1.
Klobuchar has also spoken directly with both U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland about the matter and underscored the urgency of swift action. Franken has recently joined several meetings with Minnesota dairy farmers, community leaders, and officials—including Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson—to talk about addressing the crisis.
Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Charles Schumer (D-NY) also signed the letter.
The full text of the letter is below and available here.
Dear Secretary Perdue:
We appreciate the Administration’s commitment to finding a solution to restrictive Canadian trade barriers that are hurting American dairy farmers and processors. We look forward to working with you to end Canada’s unfair dairy policy. In the meantime, we ask that you act immediately to assist the farmers whose lives have been upended and whose farms are in jeopardy because of the ripple effects of this unfair trade scheme. Without immediate action and support from the Department of Agriculture, many dairy farms may be forced to close within a few weeks.
The phasing in of new dairy pricing schemes in Canada have caused major impacts on American dairy and have abruptly upended long-standing trade relationships between U.S. and Canadian companies. The Ontario Class 6 pricing system and Canada’s new Class 7 National Ingredients Strategy appear to violate Canada’s trade commitments to the U.S. While these trade barriers are being confronted, we urge you to provide any immediate assistance that can help impacted farmers who are suffering as a result of this unfair trade practice.
Congress has provided USDA the authority to respond through Section 5 of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act, and the agency has used this provision in the past to assist other farmers impacted by problematic foreign trade policies. This tool would allow USDA to assist farmers now, helping them to market their milk, develop new markets, and increase the uses of their milk. We urge you to take action now and use this tool to ensure that our farm families will have the chance to continue their livelihood.
Additionally, USDA should act to assist with this unexpected supply of underutilized milk on U.S. markets by utilizing Section 32 authorities under the same legislation. This program allows the agency to purchase surplus dairy products and provide them to feed families in need. This step can help to find a home for the excess milk by moving existing supplies and making room for new products made by processors who are willing to take on the unexpected additional volume of milk that needs a home.
The dairy industry has responded swiftly to the crisis facing our farmers whose lives have been upended by this trade policy. However, the clock is ticking and more action is needed now to ensure our dairy farmers are not put out of business by trade politics and dairy policies set in Canada.
Thank you in advance for your immediate attention to this critical issue.