Cap On LGM-Dairy Might Be Increased
Congressman Mike Conaway (R., Texas), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, reported this afternoon that he is working to increase the $20 million cap on Livestock Gross Margin insurance (which includes dairy) through a supplemental appropriation bill that is currently moving through Congress.
He spoke on a conference call this afternoon at the annual meeting of the American Dairy Coalition (ADC), which is led by dairy farmers and focuses on national dairy issues.
An increase in the LGM cap could prove beneficial in 2018. Dairy farmers who had signed up for the Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) had been prohibited from simultaneously participating in the LGM-Dairy program. Last September, Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Perdue directed USDA to allow farmers who are enrolled in MPP to opt out of the Dairy MPP next year, which would then allow farmers to participate in LGM-Dairy. To opt out, dairy farmers simply do not need to re-enroll in the MPP program. (Sign-up for the 2018 MPP program, the final year of the current farm bill, ends this Friday, December 15.)
As for the 2018 farm bill, Conaway says his committee has all of its work done, holding more than 100 hearings over the past year. “We are ready to go,” he says. He expects Congress to begin debate on the bill by the end of January or in early February. Conaway offered no specifics, however, on what fixes Congress might apply to the Dairy Margin Protection Program. Also unknown is what specific fixes will come from the Senate side.
On immigration reform, Conaway views Cong. Robert Goodlatte’s (R., Va.) H2C guest worker program for year-round employment as a reasonable fix. But he notes the H2C will not be a stand-alone program. “DACA (Defered Action on Childhood Arrivals) and eVerify are in the mix, and will complicate getting this done,” he says.
To move the legislation forward, Conaway urged ADC members to continue to contact their government representatives. “Anecdotes help members understand why this is important and why the current system isn’t working for you,” he says.
And since dairy farming happens in every state, dairy farmers in each state must contact their individual members of Congress to tell their stories. “Tell the story over and over again until you’re sick of telling it, and then tell it a few more time,” he says.
On trade and NAFTA, Conaway says he has met with Canadian trade officials. “I told them our President is dead serious about getting this done,” he says. But they counter that the Canadian dairy industry is well entrenched and will not give up milk quota. “They say the milk lobby [in Canada] is as strong as any lobby in the U.S., and its dairy industry has a lot of dollars borrowed against their quota,” says Conaway. The implication: Getting the Canadian dairy industry to compromise on dairy issues will be extremely difficult.