Dairy farmers suffering from low milk prices would benefit from $350 million in emergency funding approved by the Senate on Thursday as it cleared a $121 billion agriculture spending bill for President Barack Obama's signature.
Lawmakers from dairy-producing states succeeded in getting $350 million in aid for dairy farmers struggling to cope with falling market prices. That includes $60 million to cover the federal purchase of surplus cheese and other dairy products.
The purchased products would go to food banks and other nutrition programs. The remaining $290 million is expected to go out in direct payments to farmers.
The average price farmers received for their milk fell this year to $11.30 per hundredweight, down from $19.30 in July 2008. It costs farmers at least $18 per hundredweight to produce milk.
Dairy farmers got a temporary boost from the Agriculture Department in July 31 when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — after meeting with the senators from Vermont and other dairy states — approved a three-month price hike that was expected to increase farmers' revenue nationwide by $243 million.