Dairy farmers seek $16.5M in stimulus money - KMOV.com

Dairy farmers seek $16.5M in stimulus money

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri dairy farmers want Gov. Jay Nixon to bring lawmakers back to the Capitol to help their struggling industry, but state officials said Friday that was unlikely to happen.

The Missouri Dairy Association urged Nixon in August to use federal stimulus money to give farmers a one-time payment of $16.5 million. The industry now wants Nixon to call a special legislative session to authorize that spending.

A collapse in milk prices has driven some farmers out of business while forcing others to slaughter portions of their herds. Larry Purdom, a dairy farmer from Purdy who is the president of the dairy association, said milk prices might not improve until next spring and action is needed immediately for many farmers to stay in business.

"Missouri's dairy producers are losing thousands of dollars and the impact on the economy of Missouri is staggering," Purdom said.

The number of dairy farms in Missouri has dwindled over recent decades. According to the U.S. Department of Agricultural, Missouri had 56,000 dairy farms in 1965 but only 2,600 in 2007, nearly all of them with fewer than 200 cows. Missouri now has about 110,000 cows, and the dairy industry estimates that each cow generates nearly $14,000 per year in related economic activity.

Missouri governors can order lawmakers back into session to handle emergencies and other situations that can't wait for the Legislature's regular session in January.

Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti said the governor does not plan to call a special session.

Missouri Agriculture Department Director Jon Hagler also said Friday that a special session is unlikely, but he said the agency would look for ways to help dairy farmers.

"Producers in Missouri have been faced with challenges and continue to struggle during these hard economic times," Hagler said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the price of milk paid to farmers by dairy processors based on commodity markets that move with rising and falling global demand.

Last year, the United States exported more milk to keep pace with rising demand in China and falling supply in Europe and Australia. Wholesale prices increased, and dairies increased production. But the global recession prompted demand to fall sharply. That left American farmers with too many cows and too much milk and spending more to keep their herds than they were receiving for milk sales.

During their 2009 legislative session, state lawmakers considered legislation that some said would assist dairy farmers. The House approved a bill that would have given dairy farmers an annual tax credit of up to $25,000 per year depending on production and milk prices, but the measure stalled in the Senate.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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