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House Ag Committee Discusses Dairy Industry Challenges, Solutions, Causer Says
HARRISBURG – Recognizing the complex challenges facing the state’s dairy industry, the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint), met at the state Capitol on Monday to talk about solutions to help the industry thrive again.

“Although more than a third of the state’s agriculture revenues come from the dairy industry, our dairy farmers are really struggling to survive, mainly due to an oversupply of fluid milk in the market and persistently low prices,” Causer said. “But there are other factors as well, including regulatory issues and permit delays, and the limited processing capacity for milk in the Commonwealth.

“Today’s meeting was a great discussion about how we can work together to overcome these challenges,” he added.

Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence), chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, shared his experiences in more than 60 years of dairy farming with the committee. He indicated many of the challenges facing the industry today are similar to what he and his family experienced over the last six decades with fluctuating milk prices, dairies being sold or consolidated, and labor limitations. Milk prices especially are more volatile, he said, because of dairy being part of a world market.

A study of the state’s dairy industry, designed to help leaders and farmers plan a path forward to overcome these challenges, was referenced by several testifiers in their comments to the committee. Early results of the study, which was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Center for Dairy Excellence, have indicated an investment in additional dairy processing capacity in the Commonwealth could generate as much as $34.7 million annually in combined revenue generation and cost savings. A link to that report and other elements of the study is available at

In his testimony, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding noted new plants could keep more than 20 percent of the state’s milk supply in Pennsylvania, rather than being shipped out of state for processing. That would both reduce hauling costs and increase milk premiums for farmers.

In addition to building processing infrastructure, Redding also stressed the importance of capitalizing on branding and marketing opportunities, improving regulatory processes and the business climate, broadening workforce development and education opportunities, and investing in broadband infrastructure.

Jayne Sebright of the Center for Dairy Excellence talked about the changes in the marketplace, both from the global perspective and in the northeastern United States, noting that this is the first time in history when producers can’t find a market for their milk. She stressed the importance of planning to remain competitive.

“The reality, at the end of the day, is that we are small business owners, and as a result, we assume part of that risk,” she said. “Being a farmer today requires careful thought, planning and continually challenging yourself to find ways to improve in every aspect of your business.”

She pointed to results of a Pennsylvania Dairy Producer Survey from last summer showing a low percentage of PA dairy farms having a written business plan or a formal succession or transition plan. There is also low participation in risk management education. She believes more farmers must engage in practices like these to succeed.

Sebright’s testimony was followed by that of Dr. Andrew Novakovic, professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University, who is helping to conduct the dairy industry study for the Commonwealth. He expanded upon the opportunities for more processing capacity in the Commonwealth and outlined data comparing Pennsylvania’s dairy industry with that of New York, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The final testifier, Jeff Ainslie of Red Barn Consulting, shared his experiences working with farmers in various states on permitting and construction, noting project costs in Pennsylvania are significantly higher than in other states due to the regulatory environment. He is encouraged by more collaboration between the departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection in regulation and farm-friendly best management practices and asked that lawmakers continue to support that effort. He also noted challenges at the local level due to inconsistencies among municipalities and efforts to balance agriculture needs and rapid development.

More information about this meeting, including video and written testimony and presentations, is available at Click on “House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee” from the left navigation bar.

Representative Martin T. Causer
67th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler
717.772.9846 /

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