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$80M in rescue funds to support dairy industry innovation

March 3, 2022 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is assigning $80 million in federal pandemic rescue funds to support dairy industry innovation, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont have announced.

The country’s four Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives in Vermont, California, Tennessee and Wisconsin will be able to access up to $20 million each.

“This additional funding for the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center couldn’t arrive a better time, as organic farmers across the region, including here in Vermont, face the loss of a key market later this year,” Leahy, a Democrat, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Farmers, processors, haulers and others in the dairy industry have good ideas about how to address the challenges the industry is facing in New England and the Northeast. This funding will make it possible to put some of those ideas into practice.”

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The funding is on top of the $18.4 million announced last fall for three of the centers in Vermont, Tennessee and Wisconsin, with yearly budgets of $6 million, Leahy and Welch said.

An imbalance between supply and demand has created instability for years for farmers and processors, an issue that was acerbated by the pandemic, they said. Horizon Organic, owned by Danone, announced this past summer that it would stop buying milk from 89 organic dairy farms in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and New York next August. It later offered to extend those contracts another six months.