Leahy And Others Urge Implementation Of Farm Bill Dairy Improvements

. . .Asking quick implementation to provide relief for dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and others, in a bipartisan letter Friday asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize the implementation of the dairy provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill.  Leahy, the most senior member of the Agriculture Committee, played a key role in forging the Farm Bill’s dairy priorities.

As dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country continue to struggle through a fifth year of low farm-gate milk prices, the 2018 Farm Bill dramatically expanded support for dairy producers, providing flexible, affordable coverage options through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

Early analysis has shown that once fully implemented, the improvements will provide much-needed financial support to dairy farmers, particularly during periods of low prices.  The Farm Bill is expected to benefit producers of all sizes, but offers up to five times more support for the smallest farms like those in Vermont.  But farmers will not see any assistance until the USDA writes rules and establishes procedures to get the new program into the field.

“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 senators continue:  “The changes to the Dairy Margin Coverage program make it a much more flexible policy that will likely benefit many of the farmers who chose not to participate in the Margin Protection Program. The USDA should strongly encourage these farmers to consider Dairy Margin Coverage program.”

Perdue visited Vermont this month to see a maple sugaring operation but heard clearly from farmers and dairy industry supporters that USDA needs to implement the DMC program as soon as possible. As the 2019 farm season approaches, Vermont dairies need to make investments in seed and feed, and simply cannot wait half a year for the support provided in the 2018 Farm Bill.    

The Farm Bill’s achievements build on the significant improvements made last year by Leahy, as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in negotiating a two-year budget agreement.  The 2018 Farm Bill also made several other important changes to address the needs of dairy producers, including: a study on the feed components of the margin calculation, a provision to counteract the disincentive for milk donation, continuation of forward contracting, an update to the Class I pricing formula, and a partial refund or credits from premiums paid under the former Margin Protection Program.

The senators’ letter to Secretary Perdue is available at this LINK.

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