Puerto Rico house introduces measure in support of dairy industry
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez and majority New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. José “Memo” González Mercado announced Monday an initiative that seeks to strengthen the island’s dairy industry.
The NPP lawmakers said they introduced a joint resolution ordering the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department to mainly consume local milk at the island’s penal institutions.
“We cannot stay with our arms crossed to see how milk consumption in Puerto Rico is reduced,” Méndez said in a statement. “This is an industry that has served our island very well for decades and we have to give them a hand during these times. This is one of various initiatives aimed at solidifying this sector in our economy.”
The speaker said he considers it indispensable that the agriculture sector is kept in “a stable condition,” adding that “it is the government’s responsibility to protect and boost the development of this industry to its maximum potential.”
Rep. González said the measure’s objective is to “adopt a public policy that pursues to strengthen our local agriculture industry,” and “in turn allows us to be in a better position to face situations where we depend exclusively on the local industry.”
In 2016, the Puerto Rico milk industry sold more than 240 million pints, a number that has dropped substantially, to about 190 million pints, as of July, according to Puerto Rico Farmers Association data.
There are three major milk processing plants operating on the island Puerto Rico that are sourced by 257 dairy farms with some 45,400 cows. The industry is made up of about 16,000 direct and indirect jobs.
González, who also chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, spoke with Corrections Secretary Erik Rolón about the measure Sunday. Rolón said he would study the legislation.
“We must remember the weeks after the passage of Hurricane Maria, when we experienced great challenges at our ports,” González said. “The extraordinary situation that took many months to return to normal accounted for delays in delivering products to commercial establishments. As a consequence of the aforementioned, we faced a lack of basic products on the shelves. Products such as bottled water and others were scarce in stores. Despite this, thanks to the local dairy industry, we did not have a deficiency of that product.”