Connecticut’s dairy farmers are ending their fifth year of financial decline and there does not seem to be an end in sight. That was the picture being presented to the legislative rural caucus on Tuesday as dairy farmers from across the state expressed the industry’s need for more financial support.
This hearing was just one of what will be a series of meetings between dairy farmers and legislative members to discuss what the government can do to help keep farms afloat. With nearly sixty farms lost just last year and many more losing money, there is a growing concern that the agricultural community in Connecticut will soon reach a financial crisis.
Ned Ellis, a farmer from Hebron, says that he hopes that the hearings will bring awareness to how important the agricultural community is to the state.
“I don’t think people are aware of how complex the dairy industry is and what they give to the state of Connecticut,” said Ellis. "And I just hope it will open their eyes. I wish we could get the rest of the legislature and the cities to understand that they’ve got to know where their food comes from and we can’t just ignore it.”
Some farmers expressed the need for funding the Community Investment Act, which was meant to provide financial support to dairy farmers.
Farmer Cricket Jacquier says that the funding from that act is critical to the success of Connecticut’s dairy farms. “ When you’re trying to plan, and budget, and put cash flows together...having that program fully funded and in place is a really important piece to the future of dairy,” said Jacquier.
Farmers also were concerned over the labelling of almond and soy milk, because neither are actual milk products. They say that this gives a false impression to customers and hurts the dairy industry. They urged members of the panel to consider passing a law that prohibits these products from using what they consider to be misleading labels.
Overall, the growing concensus from all of the farmers present was that they just needed more support.
"Come out to our farms, see our farms," said Kies Orr of Fort Hill Farms. "We need the support from this hearing, we need the support from our legislature and our representatives to help our farming families grow.
Legislative members on the panel say that they hope the hearings will provide them with understanding and ideas for how to help the dairy industry thrive going forward.