For Immediate Release Nov 22, 1999

Contact David Ferch at (802) 229-1941


MONTPELIER, VT -- The Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact was reauthorized by both the House and Senate and is now awaiting a signature by President Clinton. Supporters hailed the victory as a critically important measure for dairy farmers and consumers throughout the six New England states.

"Congress was exercising its best wisdom when it included the passage of the Northeast Dairy Compact in its recent budget deliberations. Continuation of the Compact is a boon for consumer price protection and a safety net for our dairy economy," said Mae S. Schmidle, Chairman of the Northeast Dairy Compact Commission.

Legislation reauthorizing the Compact through Sept. 30, 2001 was included in the Omnibus Spending bill approved by the U.S. House on Thursday and passed by the Senate on Friday.

Since implementation in July 1997, the Compact Commission has directed to farmers nearly $73 million. While this money represents only a small portion of what is necessary to operate a viable dairy economy, it has proved crucial in helping farmers survive tough times. This is because the Compact operates by setting a floor for the price farmers receive for the Class 1 milk they produce. The Commission only has the authority to regulate the price of Class 1 milk, the milk used as a beverage. This has proved extremely valuable during a period that saw price fluctuations in the order of 30 percent.

It needs to be pointed out that none of the money comes from the tax payer. All funding for the Compact comes from the market: consumers, farmers, processors, handlers, distributors and retailers.

"While farmers are the immediate beneficiaries of reauthorization, the Compact was designed to provide a valuable service to all New Englanders. This is done by ensuring an adequate supply of fresh milk. Consumers also benefit from lower milk prices, the result of increased stability in the market," said Executive Director Kenneth Becker.

Putting a check on the long decline of the family farm is also another way of preserving the working landscape of New England by deterring development of agricultural land. The picture-postcard aspect of the land is not only appreciated by tourists, residents and environmentalists, but by all outdoor recreation enthusiasts who benefit from the stewardship of the land provided by the farmer.

During the reauthorization process the nationwide milk pricing system came under close scrutiny and severe criticism. Congressional leaders have indicated they will take a close look at the milk pricing issue next year. The Commission welcomes the opportunity to discuss the Compact and is eager to discuss the experience in New England.

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