Senate, House push USDA on dairy implementation
March 29, 2019
Bipartisan coalitions in the Senate and the House on April 4 pushed the Agriculture Department to speed up implementation of the new dairy program in the 2018 farm bill.
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., led a large bipartisan coalition to send Perdue a letter.
"The situation for dairy farmers is urgent," the senators wrote. "Although Dairy Margin Coverage is effective as of Jan. 1, 2019, the government shutdown delayed action on 2018 farm bill implementation for over a month. During this time, dairy farmers have continued to face market instability and are struggling to survive the fourth year of sustained low prices."
"The changes to the Dairy Margin Coverage program make it a much more flexible policy that will likely benefit many of the farmers who chose not to participate in the Margin Protection Program. The USDA should strongly encourage these farmers to consider the Dairy Margin Coverage program," wrote the senators.
"In the interim, we request that the USDA invest in outreach, training, coordination with partner organizations, and staffing to ensure that every eligible farmer receives personalized information about the new and improved options," wrote the senators.
In a letter to Perdue, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Rep. Glenn "G.T." Thompson, R-Pa., ranking member of the House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee, and more than 70 Democratic and Republican House colleagues urged the department to prioritize the implementation of the dairy provisions.
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"Provisions of the new farm bill, particularly the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, will provide much-needed help if they can reach dairy farmers quickly enough," the letter states.
"Last year, the average dairy farm in Minnesota earned $15,000 — a third of what it earned in 2017. Given what's facing dairy farmers, USDA needs to get a move on implementing these dairy programs as soon as possible," said Peterson. "And I hope USDA will overcommunicate on what the new programs can do for farmers. Congress worked hard to include higher and more affordable coverage options, so it's important that there is outreach so that these folks see just what the new programs can do for them."
"The 2018 farm bill provides dairy farmers with better risk management tools, improved coverage and more affordable options," Thompson added. "USDA should fast-track these changes as times remain difficult and producers around the nation need more options. I thank Chairman Peterson for his leadership and commitment to reworking the dairy safety net in a bipartisan way."
The National Milk Producers Federation today thanked key House and Senate dairy leaders for adding bipartisan momentum to the implementation of the new program.
"Implementing dairy programs in a fast and farmer-friendly manner is important to NMPF members," said National Milk President and CEO Jim Mulhern. "We applaud Secretary Perdue for his efforts to commit to a timeline that gives farmers some certainty for financial planning. We need to ensure that outreach is broad and that farm-specific issues that arise during implementation are addressed with flexibility." ❖