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September 7, 2016

Dairy Industry Leader Urges Congress to Take Lame Duck Action

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Congress is back in Washington D.C. after its summer recess. While much of the focus will be on funding the government, Jim Mulhern, CEO of National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) urged lawmakers to focus on issues impacting the dairy industry in his monthly column. Issues top of mind for Mulhern include; immigration reform, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, child nutrition, biogas recovery tax and the Farm Bill’s dairy safety net.

In his column, Mulhern said the future of the dairy industry hinges on immigration reform. “Much has been said on the campaign trail this year about our nation’s immigration laws, but not much helpful or hopeful light has been shed on the subject,” he wrote.  “Despite the rhetoric, the fact remains that we have a serious mismatch between the supply of workers available to farming and agriculture, and the labor demand on dairy farms, orchards, nurseries, meat packing plants, and other places where much of the hard work wouldn’t get done without immigrant workers.”  Immigration reform has been stagnant for several years. Other sectors of agriculture including fruits and vegetables will also be focused on this issue as the next president takes office.

Both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton say they oppose the TPP. However, Mulhern said the trade deal between the U.S. and 12 countries in the Pacific Rim is good for dairy.  “The U.S. government has spent five years negotiating the TPP, and it’s now up to Congress to vote it up or down,” he said. “But delaying consideration of the deal, or voting against it, would reduce our opportunities to capture growing dairy markets in the Pacific Rim.” Mulhern admits the TPP isn’t perfect and implementation of it must be carefully monitored and its provisions must be strictly enforced.  “But punting on the TPP is a serious mistake and would greatly reduce opportunities for increased access to overseas dairy markets that are growing faster than our own,” he said.

Another topic Mulhern addresses, one critical for most dairy farmers, is establishing a better dairy safety net. The current safety net expires in 2018. “We are already in early discussions with members of Congress about ways to remedy some of the deficiencies in the Margin Protection Program, so that the key structural issues that need to be examined – including feed cost calculations, premium levels for supplemental coverage, and the margin thresholds for payouts – are addressed sooner rather than later,” he said. “Our message to lawmakers is that the MPP is not completely fulfilling its objective as an effective safety net, and that means more work is needed.”

You can read Mulhern’s full column here.

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