Farm Bill
April 2, 2019

Senators Push Perdue To Prioritize Dairy

Top Story  |   |  By: Mike Opperman

While the 2018 Farm Bill has been passed by Congress, dairy farmers are still waiting for access to some of the treasures it contains. A key part of the farm bill is the Dairy Margin Coverage program (DMC), an analysis of which shows a significant benefit for dairy farmers, and up to 5 times as much support for smaller dairies than the previous Margin Protection Program.

But aid can’t come soon enough, and a letter signed by 77 House members and 38 Senators from both sides of the aisle is pressuring USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to get going on DMC implementation.

“The situation for dairy farmers is urgent,” the Senators wrote. “Although Dairy Margin Coverage is effective as of January 1, 2019, the government shutdown delayed action on 2018 Farm Bill implementation for over a month. During this time, dairy farmers have continued to face market instability and are struggling to survive the fourth year of sustained low prices.”

The letter goes on to ask USDA to encourage dairy farmers to sign up for the DMC program, and for USDA to invest in outreach, training, coordination with partner organizations and staffing to make sure every eligible producer is aware of the benefits of the program.   

“We commend Chairman Peterson, Rep. Thompson, Ranking Member Stabenow, Senator Blunt, and their numerous colleagues for drawing attention to the difficulties dairy farmers are enduring,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “Implementing dairy programs in a fast and farmer-friendly manner is important to NMPF members. We applaud Secretary Perdue for his efforts to commit to a timeline that gives farmers some certainty for financial planning. We need to ensure that outreach is broad and that farm-specific issues that arise during implementation are addressed with flexibility.”

The questions is whether the new provisions contained in the farm bill will be enough.  The USDA Economic Research Service estimates that the new program will provide about $600 million to dairy farmers in 2019, about three times more than what the Margin Protection Program paid out over its three years of existence. 

Still, some producers say that DMC is a short term solution to a long term problem, according to Politico. Ongoing recommendations for tax breaks, research investments and revised milk pricing systems—including supply management—have been proposed in key dairy states as more long-term solutions. 

See these additional articles for more information on programs contained within the farm bill:

Farmers Previously Enrolled in LGM Now Eligible for Retroactive 2018 MPP Enrollment

Perdue: Dairy Producers Just Need To Hang On

Stabenow: Farm Bill Implementation Is Critical