TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Parker Space’s legislation directing the N.J. Department of Agriculture to pay the coverage premiums of dairy farmers participating in a federal safety-net program for milk producers cleared an Assembly panel on Monday. Space’s bill mirrors current law in Maryland.
“Stepping up the support of our state’s dairy farmers is critical if we want to save this important industry,” Space (R-Sussex) said. “Milk producers, many of whom have been farming in New Jersey for several generations, are hurting from increased costs. This bill helps keep dairy farming alive and well in New Jersey.”
The bill (A4336/S3465) reimburses dairy farmers the annual premiums they pay to participate in the federal dairy margin coverage program, which is voluntary and provides risk protection to dairy farmers when milk prices are low and feed costs are high. A dairy operation that selects coverage above the catastrophic level is required to pay an annual premium based on the coverage level and percentage of production history.
The program delivers effective risk protection for dairies with herd sizes up to 250 cows, and partial risk protection for larger dairies. The average New Jersey dairy herd has 115 cows.
“This federal program has proven to be a successful safety net, especially for small dairy farms like we have in New Jersey. We want to encourage dairy farmers to enroll in the program and ensure that coverage costs are not an impediment,” Space added.
Committee amendments capped the reimbursement up to the amount of the premium for coverage for the first 5 million pounds of annual milk production per farm and provides for a $125,000 appropriation. New Jersey currently has 36 dairy farms eligible for the program.
In March 2021, the Senate unanimously passed the bill (S3465), which is sponsored by Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sussex).