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New assistance program available for dairy farmers

Dairy farmers have faced a multitude of challenges in recent years, but a new reimbursement program through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is intended to help Virginia farmers.

VDACS established a new reimbursement program to assist dairy producers who participate in the federal Dairy Margin Coverage Program. The new Virginia Dairy Producers Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program reimburses dairies for the premium payments they have made for the federal program at the tier 1 level.

Virginia’s dairy industry produces one of the commonwealth’s top commodities. According to 2019 U.S. Department of Agriculture data, the state’s dairy industry produced nearly 1.5 billion pounds of milk annually and had cash receipts of $290.1 million.

However, ongoing changes in domestic demand, sharp declines in exports and the pandemic-fueled disruption of market channels and product demand during the past 16 months have exacerbated Virginia dairy farmers’ challenges, noted Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “During that time, we’ve lost probably 20% of the state’s dairy farms.”

Banks said the new VDACS program will allow some dairy farmers, who otherwise couldn’t, to participate in DMC, the federal risk management program. “All participating dairy farmers will benefit from the financial support offered by the commonwealth.”

Applications for the new dairy program will be available this fall. Eligible dairy producers will receive notification of the application’s availability directly and should submit program applications to VDACS by Feb. 1, 2022. Eligible dairy farmers include those with a certified resource or nutrient management plan and those who participate in the federal DMC program at the tier 1 level.

The Virginia Dairy Producer Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program was approved during the Virginia General Assembly 2021 special session and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam. Program funding for the current fiscal year is set at $1 million and will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.