After 35 days of a partial government shutdown finally resolved and U.S. Department of Agriculture offices back open, many in the dairy industry are urging a quick implementation of the 2018 farm bill’s needed dairy provision updates. Implementation of the law, passed in December, has been slowed by the recent shutdown.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) sent a letter Friday to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking that dairy programs be fast-tracked because of the nature of farm bill reforms.
“Because the dairy provisions of the law simply modify the pre-existing margin program, it is clear from Congress’ direction that USDA can move forward to enact the new provisions without conducting a formal rule-making process,” NMPF president and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern wrote. “We encourage you to utilize this flexibility to help add momentum to the process, especially in light of the fact that the government shutdown has delayed the department’s ability to proceed.”
The new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program offers more affordable and higher coverage levels than previous initiatives, with all dairy producers able to insure margins up to $9.50/cwt. on their Tier I production (first 5 million lb.) history. The DMC also offers lower-cost $5.00 margin coverage -- a higher level of affordable catastrophic protection for operations wishing to cover more than 5 million lb. of production, NMPF said.
“Dairy farmers have just completed a fourth consecutive year of depressed milk prices and are facing an uncertain outlook for 2019,” Mulhern wrote. “We believe that the significant dairy policy reforms we worked successfully with Congress to enact in the new farm bill will be critically important to helping farmers better manage difficult periods of low margins.”
NMPF said it looks forward to working with USDA on a farmer-friendly signup process that gives producers time to understand their options, with quickly updated online tools to streamline the process.
“The passage of the 2018 farm bill provided much-needed certainty during these challenging times for U.S. dairy farmers, and the shutdown of the government halted any progress on putting the new farm bill into motion,” added Jeff Lyon, general manager of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. “Our efforts on reforming the dairy title will prove to be valuable for many dairy farmers, but the USDA needs to make these same dairy programs a priority and available soon.”
“Low margins have been affecting dairy farmers for more than four years now, and for the Dairy Margin Coverage program to be effective, [Farm Service Agency] offices need to be open, and dairy farmers need the ability to sign up for the program,” FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative president John Rettler said. “With the government reopen, FarmFirst urges the USDA to keep the 2018 farm bill as a priority and expedite implementation. Fortunately, the Dairy Margin Coverage program mirrors much of the original program, so we are hopeful that there won’t be a need for formal rule-making process.”