House Agriculture Committee ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) and chairman Michael Conaway (R., Texas), along with Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the enrollment period for the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) to Dec. 31.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the lawmakers said extending the signup period would encourage additional participation. “We believe an extension to Dec. 31 should be made permanent to give producers additional time to make informed decisions and to improve program participation,” they wrote.
Since MPP was created in the 2014 farm bill, milk prices have dropped almost 40%, and cheese stocks now stand at record-high levels. The current enrollment deadline is Sept. 30.
The letter stated, “We have seen clear evidence that enrollment grows when the signup period is extended. USDA has extended the signup period for the last two years. Last year, roughly 16,000 farmers were enrolled at the original Sept. 30 deadline. An additional 7,190 farmers enrolled after this was extended to Nov. 20. We believe an extension to Dec. 31 should be made permanent to give producers additional time to make informed decisions and to improve program participation.”
The lawmakers also noted that there are lessons to be learned with the implementation of new farm programs. “Producers rely on futures information and estimates of their own financial health to make educated decisions about how much coverage they should purchase. We believe extending the signup period to Dec. 31 would provide more time for producers to assess the situation and maximize the signup potential for MPP,” they said.