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Md.'s dairy farmers to receive financial assistance

December 25, 2009

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland's struggling dairy farmers stand to receive as much as $2.475 million in emergency aid provided in the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill through the new Dairy Emergency Loss Assistance Payment program (DELAP).

Gov. Martin O'Malley, along with governors from Northeast dairy states, actively supported the inclusion of the emergency funds in the appropriations bill to assist dairy farmers trying to stay afloat during the longest stretch of extremely low prices on record.

"We thank our congressional delegation, as well as U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for seeing that these emergency funds are made available to Maryland dairy producers who, like those across the country, have suffered extraordinary economic hardship over many months," O'Malley said. "We are hopeful that this funding will provide some relief for them as prices and their businesses recover. Because our dairy farms provide more than 250,000 acres of productive farmland, a local source of dairy products and an economic infrastructure for our rural communities, they are vital to our smart, green and growing future."

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According to the USDA, milk prices declined substantially through early to mid-2009, with the national price for milk averaging $16.80 per hundredweight (cwt.) in the fourth quarter of 2008 and averaging $12.23 per cwt. in the first quarter of this year, a 27 percent decline. On average, the price U.S. dairy producers received for milk marketed in the summer was about half of what it cost them to produce milk.

"Dairy is Maryland's third-largest agricultural industry, with farm receipts of $194 million in 2008 and about 250,000 acres of farmland," Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance said. "Since 2007, we've lost more than 100 dairy farms, leaving us with just over 500 operations. This loss is in large part due to rising costs and declining prices. The causes of this decline are many, including a national oversupply and global market issues. Milk prices are dictated by national commodity markets, so farmers cannot raise their prices to cover increasing costs, which puts a huge strain on them."

For more information about the DELAP program and eligibility, contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency or go to www.fsa.usda.gov.

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