Struggling dairy farmers are asking the state for help

Dairy farmers say the current $4 million tax credit cap isn't enough to help them offset the costs when sales are low.

FILE- In this March 11, 2009 file photo, a line of Holstein dairy cows feed through a fence at a dairy farm outside Jerome, Idaho. Idaho is asking a federal appeals court to reinstate a statewide ban on spying at farms, dairies and slaughterhouses after a lower court judge sided with animal rights activists who said the ban violated free speech rights. (AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield, File)

HATFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Darryl Williams’ family has owned their dairy farm in Hatfield since 1661. For 13 generations, they’ve seen the industry’s technology boom, and the local market become global.

What hasn’t really changed, says Williams, is how much dairy farmers earn. “We get what the market pays us. We have no leverage to say, ‘Hey, we need more for our milk because we’re not covering our costs.'”

Williams and others are now pushing for an additional tax credit to help them make ends meet. In 2008, lawmakers passed a law offering dairy farmers a tax credit capped at $4 million each year. Nearly a decade later, dairy farmers say it isn’t enough, now asking for the tax break to be doubled to $8 million. Williams says by doubling this tax credit, it’ll help him pay essential bills – whether it’s the mortgage or additional veterinary checks – without potentially losing money.

His goal isn’t to make more money, but for the state to help him and other dairy farmers when the cost of producing milk exceeds the pay they receive. On the Luther Belden farm, it’s only Williams and his son caring for 300 cows. “It’s not anything that I could go and take that money for,” says Williams, “like ‘I’m going to buy a brand new tractor, I’m going to get a new pickup.’ No, this is for paying bills.”

Legislation was filed back in April to double the dairy farmer tax credit. It was withdrawn from consideration.

Back in the 1980’s, there were about 400 dairy farms in Massachusetts. Now, there’s about 150. Williams told 22News the 2008 tax credit break has helped to stabilize that number over the last few years.