Bill S276-2009

Authorizes the department of agriculture and markets to notify individual producers of milk in a dairy cooperative of any proposed agreements and orders

Authorizes the department of agriculture and markets to notify individual producers of milk in a dairy cooperative of any proposed agreements and orders affecting either the northeast milk marketing area or the western New York milk marketing area; requires notice to occur not less than thirty days prior to the referendum date and include the nature of the proposed amendment.






TITLE OF BILL : An act to amend the agriculture and markets law, in relation to notification of milk producers under certain circumstances

PURPOSE : To authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets (the Commissioner) to notify milk producers who are members of certain dairy cooperatives in the event of proposed changes to milk marketing agreements and/or orders.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS : Section 16 of the Agriculture and Markets Law (AML), which refers to the general powers and duties of the Commissioner, is amended to provide the above requirement.

JUSTIFICATION : In 1999, dairy farmers across New York and other states voted on a referendum that was perhaps the most significant change in dairy policy in sixty years. Many, however, never actually voted on the issues that no doubt have an impact on their milk check every month. Instead, their dairy marketing cooperatives cast the vote in a procedure called "bloc voting."

While bloc voting can be a useful tool under certain circumstances, this procedure basically serves as a time saving means - but not always in the best interest of individual producers. Bloc voting essentially eliminates a diary farmer's democratic right to vote his or her conscience on matters that affect them financially every day of their lives. Indeed, since dairy cooperatives and their members do not always share identical interests, we should not be asking farmers to ignore that fact.

Unfortunately, the ability to change this procedure lies at the level of federal government. This does not mean, however, that New York one of the top producing dairy states in the country should not at least make an effort to keep individual cooperative members apprised of proposed changes to existing federal orders (or state-administered orders in the case of Western New York). This is especially true since the administrative offices of many cooperatives make little effort to inform their memberships about pending referendums. Time and again, farmers have indicated that they weren't even aware that a vote on marketing order changes had occurred.

When New York passed legislation in 1998 to become part of the Northeast Dairy Compact, a provision was included that allowed individual farmers in our state to cast individual ballots, even if their cooperatives opted to bloc vote. While the Compact was never reauthorized by Congress, that compromise was indicative of New York's tradition of fairness and appreciation for those who work so hard for our viable, competitive dairy industry. This bill seeks the same laudable goal.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY : 2007-08 S.5106-A Agriculture; A.1296-A Passed Assembly

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS : Minimal. The Department currently maintains information on milk producers in the state; program administrators would simply need to compile the information in an appropriate format and notify accordingly.

EFFECTIVE DATE : This act shall take effect immediately.


STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 276 2009-2010 Regular Sessions IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 7, 2009 ___________
Introduced by Sen. LITTLE -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Agriculture AN ACT to amend the agriculture and markets law, in relation to notifi- cation of milk producers under certain circumstances THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Section 16 of the agriculture and markets law is amended by adding a new subdivision 44 to read as follows: 44. NOTIFY INDIVIDUAL PRODUCERS WHO PRODUCE MILK AS A MEMBER OF ANY DAIRY COOPERATIVE THAT DOES NOT DISTRIBUTE INDIVIDUAL VOTING BALLOTS TO ITS MEMBERS IN THE EVENT THAT AMENDMENTS TO MARKETING AGREEMENTS AND ORDERS AFFECTING EITHER THE NORTHEAST MILK MARKETING AREA OR THE WESTERN NEW YORK MILK MARKETING AREA ARE PROPOSED. NOTIFICATION SHALL OCCUR NOT LESS THAN THIRTY DAYS PRIOR TO THE REFERENDUM DATE AND SHALL INDICATE TO SUCH PRODUCERS THE GENERAL NATURE OF ANY PROPOSED AMENDMENT. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.


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