In an expansion of its pandemic portfolio, the US administration said it would pay an estimated $350 million to dairy farmers to offset lower milk prices caused by market abnormalities during the second half of 2020. The payments will benefit farms with smaller herds the most. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program “is the first step” by the USDA to deliver $2 billion “to help the dairy industry recover from the pandemic and be more resilient to future challenges.” Yet to be implemented were a $400 million program to donate dairy products to food banks and a $580 million infusion of funds to provide more assistance to small and medium-size milk producers through a dairy subsidy program called Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage. The market volatility payments will “compensate for some of the damage resulting from the pandemic,” said Jim Mulhern, chief executive of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). The market volatility payments will cover 80% of the revenue difference per month from July through December of last year, based on annual production of up to 5 million gallons, roughly the milk produced by a 210-cow herd. Payment rates will vary by region, “based on actual losses on pooled milk related to price volatility,” said the USDA. The money will flow through independent handlers and cooperatives to reach farmers. The USDA has committed $6 billion in pandemic assistance to agriculture since March.