|Credit: Carlos Anguita|
The Agriculture Department on Thursday filed a motion at the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico requesting an additional 10 days to “responsibly calculate” what the new price for fresh milk should be.
To reach that figure, the agency needs to evaluate a report submitted Wednesday by the Consumer Affairs Department, which Agriculture Secretary Javier Rivera Aquino said “requires certain formalities that were not included and did not consider information released by the Milk Industry Regulatory Office,” or ORIL, as the agency is known in Spanish.
The agency’s request at the court responds to an order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Carlos Dominguez on Nov. 22 mandating a revision in fresh milk prices, something ORIL is required to do every year. Current milk prices are based on the last revision, done in 2008.
The court’s order in turn responded to an emergency petition filed by dairy farmers grouped under the Puerto Rico Farm Bureau, who claimed their operational costs had increased by 20 percent in recent months. The current fresh milk prices, they said, did not yield enough for them to cover their operating costs, forcing many to file for bankruptcy protection.
On Thursday, Rivera Aquino said regardless of when new milk prices go into effect, “the agency will comply with the court’s order…with regards that ORIL experts will incorporate formulas and data into the milk price revision.”
That means that the price of fresh milk will likely increase in January. While dairy farmers are asking for an increase of 19 cents per quart, it is likely that the hike will be closer to 5 cents per quart, industry sources have said.