Organic dairy farmers are in crisis due to drought, market consolidation, and skyrocketing energy and feed costs brought on by unstable global markets and inflation.

Organic Farmers Association and allies have been calling on Congress to provide emergency financial relief to organic dairy farmers to help offset the high cost of production before more farms go out of business. We were pleased to see language requiring USDA to find sources of funding to help organic dairy farmers included in the federal spending bill that passed at the end of 2022.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency fulfilled the mandate on time, announcing plans to distribute funding on Monday, Jan. 23.

The newly announced Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance Program will be administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency and will cover up to 75% of projected 2023 marketing costs for eligible organic dairy producers — targeting small and mid-sized operations.

“We applaud Congress for prioritizing family farms in crisis and prioritizing this emergency relief. We cannot afford to lose more organic dairy farms. They provide healthy food and environmental stewardship to rural communities across the country,” said Kate Mendenhall, executive director of Organic Farmers Association.

OFA appreciates FSA’s efforts to find ways to provide immediate assistance. However, new programs specifically tailored to address increased cost of production for organic dairy are still urgently needed as part of the 2023 Farm Bill.

“Organic dairies have had a very difficult two years, and this relief funding will hopefully make it to dairies in time to keep them in business,” said Liz Bawden, organic dairy farmer in Hammond, New York, and co-president of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

“This funding was urgently needed by dairy farms in California and throughout the western United States. Our years of drought and low farmer pay price have already pushed many organic dairies out of the market. We need to find better long-term solutions to keep farms out of crisis, and hope Congress will prioritize better longtime solutions in the 2023 farm bill,” said Zach Cahill of Cahill Organic Dairy in Ferndale, California, and president of Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

“Organic dairy farms nationwide have been hit hard,” said Andy Olson of Prime Pastures Organic Dairy near Lewiston, Minnesota, and board member of Westby Cooperative Creamery. “Organic dairy farmers need better federal support programs that serve the unique needs of the organic dairy industry. Our market has grown to a point where functioning under conventional safety nets doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Organic Farmers Association will make sure to get the word out to certified organic dairies nationwide of this emergency relief funding, and will continue working with their organic dairy farmer members and Congress to advocate for better long-term solutions for organic dairy farms in the Farm Bill.

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