By Guy Page
A Senate bill would add five cents to the wholesale cost of every dairy product retail container and return the money to farmers in the form of higher milk prices.
S83, an act relating to the Dairy Stabilization Program, would give Vermonter farmers what they most need to survive: a decent price for their milk, says sponsor Sen. Russ Ingalls (R-Essex-Orleans). The bill will be heard by Senate Agriculture 11:15 Tuesday.
“What this bill does if passed is to charge five cents for every package of dairy sold in Vermont. It’s charged at the wholesale level. When the product is delivered to the store, it’s added to the invoice to be paid to the distributor when the bill is paid. It does not ring in at the register. This is a game changer for the Vermont dairy industry. This hopefully will end the 50 year war on VT farmers,” Ingalls told Vermont Daily.
The bill reads:
“This bill proposes to impose a $0.05 tax on every retail package of dairy products sold by a distributor to a retailer. The bill would also establish the Dairy Industry Stabilization Program to provide financial assistance to dairy farmers in the State. The financial assistance would be provided in the form of a premium over the federal order price that the State shall pay each registered dairy farmer in the State per hundredweight of milk sold in the State.”
How do we best help our farmers? Pay them for their milk. They are resourceful to figure out the rest. – Sen. Russ Ingalls
Ingalls explained the money will keep prices closer to the point of affordability for the producers – the declining number of Vermont dairy farmers.
“Farmers get paid on per 100 weight. A sustainable price for them is somewhere near $21 per 100#’s so $21 for every 100lbs of milk. But we see farmers for long stretches down below $21 and lots of times in the $11 to $12 range, which is devastating to them,” Ingalls said. “I’m in hopes that this bill raises them an additional $6 a 100. So when those prices tank down to the $12 range, they would be at $18. Not sustainable for any length of time but at least not as devastating.”
What makes his bill different from other farm legislation and regulation is that it would return proceeds directly to the farmers.
“Out of a couple thousand people estimated that I’ve asked, ‘would you pay farmers more for their product if you knew it was going directly to them?’ All, and I mean, all have said yes!,” Ingalls – himself a former dairy farm and dairy supply business operator – said.
Government farm policies and market pressures have adversely affected small Vermont farmers’ ability to make a good living for half a century, Ingalls said.
“There has been a 50 year war on farmers. I believe we are around 600 dairy farms left in the State when there used to be thousands,” Ingalls said. “Vermont knows the importance of what they do for our economy and our image. There is not a single piece of State advertising that doesn’t show an old dairy barn, a stone wall or fence or a beautiful field maintained by a farmer.”
Ingalls said farmers are the only businesspeople he knows that pay retail for everything they buy and gets wholesale for their product, he added. “How do we best help our farmers? Pay them for their milk. They are resourceful to figure out the rest.”