The U.S. Department of Agriculture will be offering an additional week for dairy producers to sign up for the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, according to a statement USDA undersecretary Bill Northey made during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on Thursday morning.
Authorized by the 2018 farm bill, the program offers reasonably priced protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.
As of Sept. 18 – two days before the initial deadline – approximately 21,000 producers were enrolled in the program, and $230 million already have been paid out to ensure that producers stay afloat, Northey said. The signup numbers for DMC in 2019 so far are about 80 farmers short of the signup level for the old Margin Protection Program in 2018. Nearly 75% of dairy operations with established DMC production history have enrolled so far. Northey said he anticipates a bump in sign-ups in the next couple of days.
“My message to those dairy producers who are hurting out there: Don’t leave this kind of financial assistance on the table,” said Northey. “Producers across the country have told us that DMC is a great risk management tool that works well, and it can work for you, too.”
“We appreciate USDA’s decision to extend the signup period for the DMC, and we are hopeful that more producers will sign up before the enrollment period ends,” said John Rettler, president of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative and dairy farmer from Neosho, Wis. "FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative believes that this program will perform much better than its predecessor and encourages all dairy farmers to sign up."
Rettler added, “We can’t emphasize it enough: This is a program all dairy farmers should sign up for. There are still improvements to be made over time to DMC, and much of the valuable feedback we receive is through producers who have experienced the program. Farmer participation allows for greater improvements later on.”
DMC is a much more robust safety net program for dairy farmers than its predecessor program thanks to several key updates made to it. These include affordable higher coverage levels; a more accurate feed cost formula that now includes dairy-quality hay values, which more accurately reflects the true cost of feeding cows, and a new option for dairy farmers to receive a 25% discount on their premiums if they lock in their coverage for a five-year period.
DMC is guaranteed to pay all producers enrolled at the maximum $9.50/cwt. coverage level for every month of production through July, according to USDA data.
National Milk Producers Federation president and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern said, “DMC signup, especially at the maximum $9.50 coverage level, is a no-brainer for dairy producers, but to take advantage of this program, delay is no longer possible. Farmers need to sign up now.”
Northey added, "I know that some farmers may still be cautious given their experiences with former dairy support programs, but producers who have not signed up yet should come into a local office to learn how much money the program can put into their pockets.”