On May 10, 2007 the Acting Commissioner issued a Declaration of Crisis in the Dairy Industry as a response to the Dairy Farmer Petition for Relief. One result of the Declaration was immediate action by the Governor and the Legislature to provide Emergency Relief and to establish a Dairy Revitalization Task Force. This page contains information on these and other actions relative to the Declaration of Crisis in the Dairy Industry and the formation of the Dairy Farm Preservation Act.

Declaration of Crisis and Resulting Emergency Relief

On January 29, 2007 the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (“Commissioner”) received a Petition for Relief pursuant to Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 94A, Section 12 (M.G.L. c. 94A, Sec. 12; “Petition for Relief”) from the Massachusetts Association of Dairy Farmers, Inc. on behalf of Massachusetts licensed dairy farmers. Said petition set forth Facts and Statutory Allegations in support of a Request for Relief. The request for relief asked, in part, that a public hearing be convened by the Commissioner to address questions regarding a claimed emergency in the Massachusetts dairy industry and to issue appropriate orders regarding minimum prices and a system of payments for dairy producers.

On February 9, 2007 a memorandum went out notifying Massachusetts dairy farmers, milk dealers, farm associations, and other interested parties of the receipt of the Petition as well as forthcoming actions relative to the Petition. The Department created a page on our web site for interested parties to obtain information regarding Petition documents and other announcements.

On March 2, 2007 a Notice of Public Hearing (“Notice of Public Hearing”) pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 94A, §§12, 17(a), and 19(a), which announced two hearing dates: March 16, 2007 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and March 20, 2007 at Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA. The Public Hearings were set up as part of an examination and investigation as to whether the milk price to the producer can be maintained to insure an adequate supply of fresh, pure milk sufficient to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth and to protect the public health. If such a price could not be maintained, the Commissioner could declare a state of emergency whereupon he is authorized to issue orders, rules, and regulations, including the establishment of minimum wholesale prices, retail prices, or both.  Written comments would be received until 4:00 PM, March 29, 2007.

On May 10, 2007 The Acting Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, having found that the standards of Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 94A, Section 12 to be met, issued a State of Emergency in the Massachusetts Dairy industry. $3.6 million was pledged to aid dairy farmers and a Dairy Farm Revitalization Task Force was developed to strengthen the dairy industry.

May 25, 2007 a memorandum notifying farmers of the application for dairy farm relief went out. This memorandum stated that the $3.6 million emergency relief grants will be distributed to eligible dairy farmers based upon a formula that considers all eligible milk production during 2006. Only those farmers who produced milk during 2006 and held a certificate of registration, pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 94 §16A, at least one month during 2006 and who held  an un-expired certificate of registration that is eligible for renewal on July 1, 2007 at the time of the application submission were eligible for grants through this program. To ensure eligibility for a payment through this program, eligible Massachusetts dairy farmers had to complete and sign the 2007 Massachusetts Dairy Relief Program Application and W-9 form. All applications and W-9 forms must be complete and received by the Department no later than 4:00 p.m. June 22, 2007.

On May 30, 2007 Agricultural officials solicit applications for dairy farm relief. Information sessions are held 5/31/2007 in Ashland, 6/6/07 in South Deerfield, and 6/13/07 in Brookfield, to help Massachusetts dairy farmers apply for emergency relief grants.  

On June 17, 2007  $3.6 Million Dollars in Emergency Dairy Farm Relief was distributed - The Department verified the production and determined that 180 farms were eligible for payment. The total production for these farms for 2006 was just over 272.7 million pounds yielding a payment rate of just over $1.32 per hundredweight of milk. The average payment of those 180 farmers was $19,565.

Dairy Task Force

As a result of the crisis conditions, Gubernational and Legislative action yielded Chapter 42 of the Acts of 2007, which provided the $3.6 million in emergency relief for dairy farmers to assist them in recovering from the events of 2006 and established the Dairy Farm Revitalization Task Force (Task Force).  The Task Force consisted of 17 members including three dairy farmers, six legislators, a representative of milk processors, and 7 various members of the Executive Branch.  The Task Force was co-chaired by the Commissioner of the Department of Agricultural Resources and the Secretary’s designee the Undersecretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).  The purpose of the Task Force was to:

…investigate short and long-term solutions to preserving and strengthening the dairy farm industry in the Commonwealth.  Said investigation shall include methods to promote the innovation in, and the revitalization of, the Massachusetts dairy farming community, including without limitation, investigating the impact of increased fixed costs borne by the dairy farming community including, but not limited to, fuel prices, healthcare and insurance; promoting locally produced milk; and promoting alternative and renewable energy uses for farmers.

The Task Force met seven times, on 07/27/07, 08/10/07, 08/24/07, 09/07/07, 09/21/07, 10/05/07, and 11/09/07.  After the final meeting a report to the Legislature was filed.  This report called for an income tax credit for dairy farmers that kicks in when milk prices fall below the costs of production, along with other measures to promote the long-term viability of dairy farming in Massachusetts.  The Task Force also called for legislation to create a Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board, an act that would redirect funds currently contributed by Massachusetts farmers to a regional board to develop promotional, research, and nutritional programs and put these funds to work for the Massachusetts dairy industry. Agricultural tourism and international trade are also identified as options worth exploring for Massachusetts dairy farmers, along with renewable energy opportunities such as anaerobic methane digesters, biocrops and biofuels, and wind energy, which would cut production costs and create new products.

The Dairy Farm Revitalization Task Force submitted its report to the Legislature in November 2007. From that report legislation was drafted and worked its way through the legislature. The Legislature passed the Dairy Farm Preservation Act and Governor Patrick signed the Act in law on August 14, 2008 as Chapter 310 of the Acts of 2008.