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Rep. Molinaro Works to Alleviate Milk Carton Shortage Threatening Students & Farmers

Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19) is pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address the milk carton shortage in Upstate New York and across the nation.

Supply chain problems at one of the two major manufacturers of milk cartons in the United States has caused schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions in Upstate New York to forgo serving milk. This milk carton shortage is leaving young people without access to a nutritious product, and may soon force dairy farmers to dump milk.

In a letter to the Secretary of the USDA, Rep. Molinaro urged him to use any means at his disposal to swiftly provide relief and prevent a disruption like this from happening again.

Rep. Molinaro said, “We saw how disruptive the baby formula shortage was. If this supply chain disruption persists, it’s going to cause real harm for young people and local farmers. I offered bipartisan legislation that could have prevented this crisis and strengthened our supply chain by helping businesses purchase new food processing, storage, and distribution facilities. We have to take action now to fix this milk carton shortage and actively pursue long-term solutions like the one I put forward to fortify our supply chain and prevent future disruptions.”

David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau said, "New York Farm Bureau appreciates Rep. Molinaro's outreach to the USDA calling for greater collaboration to address the milk carton shortage across the country and here in New York State. The school milk market is an important one for our dairy farmers. Supply chain disruptions can ultimately affect milk prices that farms receive, and we encourage any support that the USDA can provide during this time.”

As a Member of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Molinaro has focused on strengthening the food supply chain to provide certainty to farmers and families. Earlier this year, he introduced the Food Supply Chain Capacity and Resiliency Act, a bipartisan bill that helps businesses invest in food processing, storage, distribution, and other operations that bring food from the farm to the grocery store.

The full text of Rep. Molinaro’s letter can be found here:

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

As you know, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions across the United States are experiencing a shortage of milk cartons that is disrupting access to essential nutrition and impacting dairy farmers. In your authority as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it is critical that you use any means at your disposal to swiftly provide relief to manage the current crisis, as well as work with stakeholders to develop long term solutions to ensure this preventable shortage does not happen again.

On October 25, 2023, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released emergency guidance to school meal providers allowing them to temporarily serve alternative varieties of fluid milk or to forego serving milk if alternative packaging cannot be arranged. I appreciate the flexibility to allow providers to serve additional milk varieties and I understand the need for leniency to meal providers during this time. However, it is also unacceptable to have Upstate New York dairy farmers dumping milk due to inadequate carton supply. As this supply challenge continues, USDA must establish resources that help connect New York State farmers and meal providers with alternative packaging sources. The dairy industry has a nearly $40 billion annual economic impact in New York and is a lifeline for thousands of families that I represent. With family farmers already struggling with record high input costs, USDA must act quickly to help farms market the milk they produce.

It is also essential that USDA investigates the root causes of this situation and works with lawmakers, businesses, and farmers on adjustments that ensure kids in schools and our nation’s farmers are insulated from similar challenges in the future. Reports indicate that the disruption is caused by supply problems at just one of the two major manufacturers of milk cartons in the United States. This event, along with supply chain bottlenecks during the pandemic and the infant formula shortage experienced in 2022, has revealed fragility in our food supply that needs to be addressed by diversifying production and processing. As the House Agriculture Committee continues to develop a new Farm Bill, I would be happy to work with you on solutions that address supply chain resiliency and ensure our nation’s food and national security.

USDA and Congress must work together to resume deliveries of nutritious milk to schools, protect our dairy farmers, and address the larger long-term factors that have gotten us here. I encourage you to work closely with stakeholders in New York and am ready and willing to assist in any effort I can.