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PARMENT SAYS MILK-PRICE BILL COST HIM COMMITTEE POSITION

For Assemblyman William Parment, one issue spoiled an otherwise sterling career as one of agriculture's strongest advocates in Albany and cost him a plum assignment.

But the Jamestown Democrat said Thursday he's not bitter that his 10-year tenure as chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee has come to an end. In fact, he was more than willing to accept his share of the blame for his predicament.

"My position on the issue wouldn't have changed (but) I suspect I could have been better able to convince (committee colleagues of it)," he said. "I take that as a failure by myself in my ability to communicate with them."

The issue involved probably the biggest agriculture debate in the State Legislature last year: the decision on whether New York should join the New England states in a milk-pricing compact.

The Northeast Dairy compact sets a minimum price processors must pay New England dairy farmers for drinking milk if prices fall below federally established minimums.

The theory behind the compact is that it will help stabilize milk prices, which in turn will allow dairy farmers to better anticipate how much money they will get for their drinking milk.

Most of the state's farming community, and specifically the New York Farm Bureau, supported New York joining the compact.

The compact "will behave as a safety net ensuring farmers a stable price for their milk," said Farm Bureau spokesman Randall Sawyer.

For philosophical and practical reasons, Parment disagreed.

On a philosophical level, Parment said he's generally not in favor of any program that involves governmental intervention in the free market system.

On a practical level, Parment said he believes that, long-term, the compact could prove harmful to milk producers.

Basically, with prices guaranteed, Parment believes farmers have no incentive to adjust their production level to the market pressures of supply and demand.

He believes that would lead to increased production and, eventually, an oversupply.

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