Vermont Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee yesterday met with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at a town hall meeting in Concord, New Hampshire, where he joined other Northeast agriculture commissioners, emphasizing the serious need for assistance for dairy farmers in Vermont and across the nation. At his first face-to-face meeting with the Obama administration official, Allbee thanked Secretary Vilsack for the leadership he has already provided the dairy industry including moving surplus products into food export and nutrition programs. He also asked for more direct assistance, explaining the dire need for help on behalf of the State s 1,046 dairy farmers. Secretary Vilsack indicated yesterday that he understands the seriousness of the situation our dairy farmers are facing and that he is continuing to work on additional options for the industry. He also stated the need for USDA to renew its focus on regional food production, said Allbee.Secretary Allbee specifically requested Vilsack support an immediate and retroactive increase to the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) safety net program, as well as a minimum six-month interest-free extension or debt forgiveness on USDA loans. Both of these actions would bring immediate relief to dairy farmers, as they experience the perfect storm of high input costs and protracted low milk prices. A surprise announcement by Secretary Vilsack in New Hampshire yesterday was his pledge to form an advisory group to recommend changes to the federal milk pricing system for fairness for farmers and to help promote profitability and stability in the dairy industry acknowledging that the current system is antiquated. This is a concept that Secretary Allbee and his counterparts in New York and Pennsylvania, as part of the Northeast Dairy Leadership Team, suggested to the Secretary in a letter sent earlier this year.