Posted at: 12/17/2012 12:00 AM
Updated at: 12/17/2012 1:26 AM
By: Dan Levy
SALEM - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D - New York) visited Washington County Sunday afternoon, pushing for new federal legislation so that farmers don't go over a so-called "dairy cliff".
It's not just dairy farmers who will pay the price without a new farm bill according to Schumer; anyone who likes milk, ice cream, yogurt, or any other dairy products could feel the pinch sine prices could double.
Far away from the spacious cow pastures of upstate New York, there is a fast approaching deadline for the House of Representatives to reach agreement on a Farm Bill that many farmers say they need to survive.
The problem, according to Senator Schumer, is that some of the new, incoming congressmen think the federal government has no business getting involved in agriculture.
"To say that right now, it would cause chaos in our whole agriculture industry," Schumer said, while at the Battenkill Valley Creamery in Salem, Washington County, Sunday afternoon. "We'd lose farms, we'd lose cows, and we'd lose vital productivity."
The Battenkill Valley Creamery could be one of those family farms affected, Schumer says, impacting their herd of 350 cows, their state of the art bottling operation, ice cream manufacturing, and country store.
"I'm optimistic that something will get passed so we don't go over the edge and have the Farm Bill expire," said Seth McEachron, a fifth generation farmer, who runs Battenkill, said.
The 2008 Farm Bill expired at the end of September. Without a new one in place on January first, farmers would be left without a program to help them through tough times, when milk prices fluctuate, and the cost to feed their herd skyrockets, like it did this year.
Without a new Farm Bill, the government would have to step in and purchase dairy products at double the current price.
"That would double the price of milk in our stores and that would be horrible for consumers," Schumer says. "If the price is so high, people will stop using milk and milk products and to to something else."
"We have a product that (people) want so that tells me, we have to get something done," said Eric Ooms, a Columbia County farmers, and vice president of the New York State Farm Bureau. "I wouldn't be involved as a dairy farmer if I wasn't optimistic."
Senator Schumer says he, too, is optimistic that, in the next week and a half, the Farm Bill will pass, either as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal or all alone, on its own.
Schumer's visit to Washington County wraps up his annual tour of all 62 New York counties, for the 14th year in a row.