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Legislature supports federal dairy farmer price increases

SCHUYLER COUNTY—The Schuyler County Legislature has thrown its support behind federal legislation to boost milk prices for dairy farmers.
The legislature voted Monday, May 11, to back the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act of 2009.  The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Senators Arlen Specter and Robert F. Casey Jr., both of Pennsylvania, would raise the price paid dairy farmers from approximately $12 per hundredweight to more than $22 per hundredweight.
“Farmers are under great financial distress,” Legislator Paul Marcellus told the legislature’s resolution review committee, May 6.  “This is necessary to assure the viability of our dairy farms.”
Marcellus estimated that it costs farmers about $16 to produce a hundredweight of milk. He said prices are expected to fall to about $9 per hundredweight as a result of a decline in demand for U.S. surplus milk overseas brought on by the global recession.
He said he expects the cost of any government-ordered increase in the price of milk to be passed on to consumers.  The resolution approved Monday estimates that it costs dairy farmers $1.50 to produce a gallon of milk for which they are currently paid 95 cents.
In other actions, the legislators scheduled a public hearing for 6:45 p.m. June 8 on a plan to set the salaries of legislators and several county officers through 2013.
The hearing will be held in the Legislative Chambers at the County Office Building in Watkins Glen.  The proposal ties the salaries of the legislators, the sheriff, the county clerk and the district attorney to annual changes in the Consumer Price Index. Adjustments will be made at the beginning of each year based on a report the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics issues in July.
County Administrator Tim O’Hearn said the officials would not qualify for pay increases during the recession if the Consumer Price Index does not rise.
“We have been running a negative (in consumer prices),” he said. “I guess the default (pay increase) would be zero.”
This year, county legislators are paid $7,143; the sheriff, $69,573; the county clerk, $57,573; and the district attorney, $124,113.  The district attorney’s salary could be increased by the state independently of the Consumer Price Index, said Stacy Husted, legislature clerk.
The county lawmakers also agreed to join with Steuben County in a regional program that provides funds to help eligible recipients buy cars so they can maintain their employment.  There will be no cost to Schuyler County in 2009 for participating in the Regional Wheels to Work program.
The legislators also approved the appointment of Clifford H. Boyce as the county’s director of weights and measures. Effective June 1, Boyce will work 15 hours per week at an annual salary of $15,000.

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