Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge announced last Friday that he would support efforts to make Pennsylvania a member of the Northeast Dairy Compact.
"The dairy industry is a cornerstone of Pennsylvania agriculture and our economy," Gov. Ridge said. "Pennsylvania's membership in the compact would provide our dairy-farm families with the opportunity to remain economically viable in today's marketplace and to meet the challenges of the 21st century."
Established by an act of Congress in 1996, the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact is a regional body to provide dairy-farm families a fair price for milk. It currently is operating in six New England states with four other states prepared to enter the marketing group.
Upon passage of enabling state legislation and congressional approval later this year, Pennsylvania and its neighboring states also could join the compact. The Ridge Administration currently is working with the state House and Senate agriculture committee members to agree on specific language to join the compact.
"Our dairy farmers have experienced very serious price fluctuations in recent years that threaten their economic future," said state Agriculture Secretary Samuel Hayes Jr. "Joining the Dairy Compact should bring some stability and predictability for our dairy farmers, and help them manage market risk. "Pennsylvania's major farm organizations and dairy-industry leaders are to be commended for their hard work in delivering the quality dairy products all of us enjoy and for their commitment to passage of the dairy compact."
Pennsylvania is the fourth-leading milk producing state in the nation and home to more than 10,000 dairy farms. The state is also a national leader in the production of other dairy foods, ranking second in the annual production of ice cream and frozen dairy products; fourth in the production of butter; and sixth in the production of cheese.
"Last year, our 10,200 dairy farms produced more than 10.7 billion pounds of milk with on-farm sales valued at more than $1.53 billion," Gov. Ridge said. "Pennsylvania is proud of its dairy industry and the important contribution it makes to our economy and the welfare of our citizens."
Gov. Ridge has proclaimed June as Dairy Month in Pennsylvania.