Connecticut’s dwindling contingent of dairy farmers was breathing just a bit easier Tuesday after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced he’s been able to restore $1.4 million in subsidies to help dairy operations survive ongoing low milk prices.
The money for this fiscal year’s remaining dairy subsidies was chopped last October as part of the legislature’s struggle to deal with multibillion dollar budget deficits.
Steven K. Reviczky, state agriculture commissioner, said the subsidy “provides a critical lifeline for Connecticut’s dairy farmers and their families.”
“In the last three or four months, quite a few farmers have decided not to plant corn and to sell their cows,” Reviczky said. “I know of at least five personally,” he added.
Connecticut has only about 100 dairy farms left. “A strong and healthy farming community is integral to a strong and healthy Connecticut,” Malloy said.
In the new budget approved earlier this month by the General Assembly, partial funding for the dairy program will be restored for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1. But farmers were increasingly worried that the money they had hoped to get from the state for the final quarter of the current fiscal year had been cut.
Appleby said the open space programs can be “funded through bonding and other means… In short, this reduction is less impactful then the strain on dairy farmers.”
Freund and his brother Bill Freund have about 300 milk cows on their East Canaan farm. Matt Freund said there has been a glut of U.S. produced milk on the market for the past three years, in large part because of the loss of international customers like Mexico and increased milk production in nations around the world.
Freund said the problems with U.S. milk sales abroad isn’t solely the result of President Donald Trump’s recent threats of trade wars or his desire to renegotiate trade agreements with Mexico and Canada. “It started before Donald Trump and it’s just escalated since Donald Trump,” Freund said.
According to Reviczky, the current subsidy kicks in when the price dairy farmers are paid for their product drops below $16.50 per 100 pounds of milk. Freund said the average cost for Connecticut farmers to produce 100 pounds of milk is more than $20.
Reviczky said the dairy subsidy account has been repeatedly cut in recent years because of the state’s ongoing budget problems. The money for the fund comes from a $40 fee on real estate transactions, with about $10 of that fee going into the dairy subsidy account and the rest being split up for a variety of other state and local programs.
Despite the loss of dairy farms in recent years, Reviczky said the number of milk cows in Connecticut “has remained consistent and the production of milk has gone up” as a result of production improvements.