Press Release

Welch Introduces Bill to Support Organic Dairy Farmers

Oct 19, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the Organic Dairy Assistance, Investment, and Reporting Yields Act (O DAIRY) Act of 2023, legislation aimed at expanding federal support for organic dairy farmers and extending emergency assistance to farmers facing losses due to factors like  feed shortages and increased costs. The bill also increases investments in the organic dairy industry to ensure resiliency and longevity, and works to improve data collection for organic milk production to enhance price accuracy and transparency. The bill is cosponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). 

“Vermont’s organic dairy farms are an important part of our state’s culture and local economies. They produce world-class dairy, but recent economic challenges have taken their toll on many of these generational family businesses. My O DAIRY Act will help our organic dairy farms by boosting infrastructure investment, data collection, and emergency support for when our farmers need help the most,” said Sen. Welch. “We’re working to promote the long-term sustainability and growth of organic dairy farming in Vermont and across the country.” 

“In Vermont and across the country, dairy farms are a critical part of our economies, our communities, our culture, and our history,” said Sen. Sanders. “Tragically, it has become harder and harder for many of these farms to get by, and too many of our organic dairies have been forced to close. We must ensure that the Department of Agriculture recognizes the higher costs and unique needs of organic dairy farmers. This bill is an important step forward in providing organic dairies with the emergency relief they need while building on existing programming to ensure these hardworking farmers can stay in business.” 

“Wisconsin is one of the nation’s top dairy producing states, driving our local economies, feeding families from coast to coast, and keeping our state’s heritage of America’s Dairyland alive and strong,” said Sen. Baldwin. “In the face of recent headwinds, I’m committed to delivering the support our dairies need to keep their operations open for generations to come.” 

“New York’s dairy farmers are part of the backbone of our Upstate communities and local economies,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “The O DAIRY Act will expand support for organic dairy farmers and make long-term investments in the organic dairy industry, while also helping farmers facing difficult economic headwinds. Dairy farming is part of New York’s heritage and this legislation will ensure it remains so in the future.” 

“A thanks to Senator Peter Welch for putting this legislation forward. He and other co-sponsors are right to call for improved data collection as it relates to organic dairy and especially organic feed costs. We just do not have good regional or even consistent nationally aggregated information on those input costs which can really impact dairy farm planning and profitability. This will be a good improvement to secure in a farm bill,” said LeAnna Compagna, Organic Valley dairy farmer-member from Whiting, Vermont

“Organic dairy farmers in Vermont and around the country are facing an ongoing economic crisis fueled by supply chain volatility, increased input costs, and pay prices below their cost of production,” said Grace Oedel, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. “These farms combat climate change, produce nourishing food, and keep our rural communities healthy. We’re grateful for Senator Welch’s leadership in bringing this bill forward to provide much needed support.” 

“Family run organic dairy farms provide healthy food and environmental stewardship to rural communities across the country. The O DAIRY Act can provide much needed investments to alleviate the economic crisis these farmers are facing and provide valuable data collection to inform future support for the industry,” said Kate Mendenhall, Executive Director of Organic Farmers Association. “We applaud Senator Welch for championing this important work.” 

The Organic Dairy Assistance, Investment, and Reporting Yields (O DAIRY) Act would:  

  • Extend emergency assistance to organic dairy farmers facing losses, including any time a farm’s net income deceases by over 10% in any given year; 
  • Invest $25 million annually in dairy infrastructure investments, research and innovation;  
  • Call for increased industry organic data collection that will be shared with farmers so they can plan better; and 
  • Direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study the viability of an organic safety net program, which would get aid to farmers faster when disasters hit in the future. 

The bill has the broad support of farms, dairy cooperatives, producers and associations across the country, including the Organic Farmers Association, Organic Valley, Northeast Organic Farmers Association-Vermont, Northeast Organic Farmers Association-New York, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Straus Family Creamery, the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers’ Association, the National Organic Coalition, and the Center for Food Safety. 

More information on the O DAIRY Act can be found here.  

To read the full text of the O DAIRY Act, please click here.