A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers representing dairy producing regions across the country announced the formation of the first Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus.

The new caucus will focus on developing and promoting policy issues that are in the best interest of a healthy national dairy industry.

“Dairy farmers in the United States produce the milk and dairy products that ensure the health and nutritional well-being of Americans, but they face unique challenges in delivering these vital products,” Caucus Co-Chair congressman Collin C. Peterson said. “The Caucus will help ensure that Congress keeps an appropriate focus on developing and encouraging policies that promote a successful dairy industry.”

The Caucus will help members of Congress to work together to address emerging issues of importance to dairy producers and consumers, a goal that will be particularly important as Congress begins to write the next farm bill.

“I am proud to represent the largest milk-shed in the United States. The dairy industry is vital to the economic well-being of my district, as well as many communities throughout the nation,” Caucus Co-Chair congressman Devin Nunes said. “It is important for Congress to recognize and support our nation’s dairy farmers. As we consider important policies, including the upcoming farm bill, the dairy farmer Caucus will be an important tool for us to promote an awareness of the industry.”

The Caucus will be co-chaired by Representatives Devin Nunes (R-CA), Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Randy Kuhl (R-NY) and Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

“Washington state has a rich dairy history,” congressman Larsen said. “As a representative with a significant number of dairies in my district, I am proud to be a co-chair of the Congressional Dairy Caucus. I look forward to working with the dairy industry and my colleagues on the Caucus to identify and address areas of importance to this industry, raising awareness of dairy issues across the U.S.”

Americans drink more than 6 billion gallons of milk per year, and another 10 billion gallons of milk are used to produce cheese. Yogurt, ice cream, butter and other dairy products use an additional 4.2 billion gallons of milk per year.

“The dairy industry is important to not only my district in rural, upstate New York, but so many districts across the country,” said Kuhl. “It’s a positive step for us to be working across party lines and in both chambers to point out to our colleagues the critical needs of the dairy industry, particularly as we look ahead to consideration of the farm bill. I’m excited to be a co-chair of this Caucus.”

The milk produced by America’s 65,000 dairy farmers represents the second largest agricultural commodity industry in the United States by value. Milk accounted for about $27 billion of cash receipts for producers in 2005.

“I am pleased to be a part of the first Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus. The dairy industry’s vitality is important to many across the country, including Pennsylvanians, who depend on jobs and is imperative to the strength of our national economy,” Sen. Specter said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Caucus to advance the dairy industry’s best interests as we move towards the 2007 farm bill.”

”I am pleased to be part of the Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus,” Sen. Feinstein said. As a senator from the nation’s No. 1 dairy state, I know how important dairy issues are to my state and to the nation. I look forward to working with my colleagues on issues important to our dairy farmers as we work on the next farm bill.”