Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dairy Farms

When I first took office in 1987, there were approximately 800 dairy farms in Massachusetts supplying all of the milk demand in the state. Today there are about 165 farms left and they produce about 6-7% of demand. Milk pricing is one of the most regulated industries in America. At a time when we are witnessing huge price increases in the cost of milk at the store, the payment to dairy farmers in dropping almost as fast. As the price goes down, the cost of production has gone up as farmers are struggling with higher costs. We have seen the price of fuel increase dramatically and the cost of feed has gone through the roof as corn is used for ethanol as opposed to feedstock. This is particularly frustrating as corn is not a good fuel stock. So while 25% of the corn crops are diverted from feed to fuel, it is less than 1% of our fuel supply.

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill to establish a commission on dairy farms. The administration, Legislature, and industry issued a report earlier this year that recommended a series of reforms and changes that would benefit the industry. I understand that the Senate is taking this up soon and I hope that the House follows soon thereafter in order to stabilize this industry. It is essential that we keep some milk production in state as this shores up the regional industry as well as give us a fresh milk supply. It also saves thousands of acres of open space and water recharge areas. Not only that, but it preserves an historic industry and a way of life in many small towns.
The picture attached is one that I took on a small farm in Hawley (pop. 336). I call it "Hide and Go Moo".

Life Science update

The Life Science bill will be out shortly. Sen. Jack Hart and I have been working diligently to put together a strong bill for Massachusetts. I will post more about this soon. There was a story in the Boston Globe today about some concerns from the industry that Legislative earmarks may have weakened the bill. Two points on this: First, if we weren't diligent and gave some direction while spending one billion dollars of the taxpayer's money, the story would have been that we were just throwing a pile of money at the industry with no safeguards that the money would be spent in the public interest. Second, almost everyone who was quoted in the story as voicing concerns over earmarks had asked us to earmark money in this bill or previous bills.

More to come shortly as we work to get this done before the upcoming bio conference in San Diego.