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Local farmers talk milk pricing, labor with Richard Neal | Daily Hampshire Gazette

Congressman Richard Neal heard directly from farmers affected by federal policies as part of a tour Tuesday intended to help him understand the interests of those he represents.

Neal and Daniel Smiarowski, Massachusetts district director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, stopped at Sunbrite Farm and Eden Pond Farm in Bernardston, as well as Outlook Farm and Market in Westhampton, as part of an annual farm tour in the First Congressional District.

The farms were chosen for the tour because of existing relationships with the USDA.

“(Farmers) tend to be land-rich, but when they’re not getting the right price for their milk or they’re not getting the right price for their product, it becomes hard to have succeeding generations take over the property,” Neal said. “The complexity of it goes well beyond Bernardston to how prices are set, but it’s not quite supply and demand. That’s the challenge.”

“The pricing of milk is like a science,” said Dave Duprey, owner of Sunbrite, a dairy farm. “It never really makes sense to me. I just know it’s never enough.”

When asked what he’d heard from other farmers that morning, Neal said farmers are concerned about taxes and the “stepped-up basis” from the original price of property to its current value. When a farm is passed on to a younger generation, those inheriting land pay capital gains taxes on the current land value — not the price it cost their parents or grandparents.

Another issue, he said, is securing migrant farm workers during the growing season. “Our farmers said it’s always been a struggle.”

When sitting down to lunch, Aaron Stevens told Neal that the price of cows has declined. His wife, Kim, told Neal that the farm’s Pioneer Valley Popcorn, grown now in Colrain, has been doing well and is sold in several local outlets.

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Local farmers talk milk pricing, labor with Richard Neal.

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