Wisconsin Dairy Industry Says Farm Bill will Damage Them

US - United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has expressed concern for the dairy industry in Wisconsin if a new farm bill isn’t passed by Congress. However, dairy organizations are more concerned for dairy farmers if a farm bill is passed by Congress that includes a dairy supply management programme.
calendar icon 18 September 2012
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The Farm Bill as currently written would have imposed a national program to reduce milk production at the very same time that Wisconsin’s governor has called for increasing milk production to 30 billion pounds by 2020. The Dairy Title in the Farm Bill includes a programme, called Dairy Market Stabilization, which is designed to periodically reduce milk production. It is projected to be in effect anywhere from seven per cent to more than 40 per cent of the time.

“I don’t question Secretary Vilsack’s concern for the dairy industry, in fact, I share that concern,” said Wisconsin dairy farmer Randy Hallet. “However, I do question if Secretary Vilsack knows what will happen to the Wisconsin dairy industry when the supply management portion of the policy triggers.”

Mr Hallet, a Wisconsin dairy owner and operator of a dairy farm in Kewaunee County, would like to mitigate his risk by signing on to the dairy risk management insurance the new farm bill will offer, but fears that the supply management requirement will drastically hurt him and his fellow dairy producers. “That’s enough to pay for my electric bill, the labour costs of my 75 cow dairy and tuition for my son’s college education; so that he can take over the family farm when I retire,” Mr Hallet continued.

The Dairy Security Act is made up of two components: a margin insurance programme, similar to crop insurance programmes, and supply management. As a condition of enrolling in the margin insurance programme, a dairy producer would also be automatically enrolled in a supply management programme. Supply management restricts the amount of milk a dairy farmer can produce when the program is triggered. If the farm bill was enacted today, dairy producers would be required to either reduce milk production or have their milk check deducted up to eight per cent of their revenue per month.

“Secretary Vilsack also stated there is a need for protection programmes but one of the programs he has endorsed will actually harm dairy producers,” commented Jerry Meissner, President of DBA. “We support the adoption of the Goodlatte/Scott amendment or an extension of the current farm bill.”

A bipartisan alternative offered by Republicans Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott will create a revenue insurance programme for dairy farmers without also imposing a national program to manage milk supplies. It helps smaller farmers by offering them lower premium rates. Mark Stephenson, PhD, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin, Madison has confirmed that this alternative will help keep dairy farmers turn a profit, without also limiting the opportunity to grow Wisconsin’s-- and the nation’s--dairy industry.

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