Appropriations Vice Chairman Leahy Includes Key Safety Net Help For Dairy Farmers In FY 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday approved legislation to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration, rejecting what Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy calls “harmful” cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

At the request of Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Vice Chairman Leahy, the bill includes bipartisan provisions that make crucial improvements for dairy farmers and cotton farmers who are struggling with low prices and Farm Bill programs that have fallen short of providing the protection required of an effective farm safety net.

The package makes significant updates to the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for dairy farmers that will improve the program’s effectiveness and offer greater incentives to farmers to participate in the insurance program and select higher more meaningful levels of protection.  Making these changes now rather than waiting for the Farm Bill next year allows USDA to implement these changes for a portion of the 2018 calendar year.  If dairy farmers are forced to wait until the Farm Bill expiration next fall, it is unlikely that the USDA would be able to implement any of these greatly needed changes until 2020.

Leahy said:  “These are crucial investments for dairy farmers who should not have to suffer through yet another year of a risk management program that falls short of providing an effective farm safety net.  I was pleased to work with Chairman Cochran to address issues that are so important to producers in both of our states and that have the support of both the dairy and cotton sectors.  I am hopeful that we can move forward from this starting point and first step, to reach a final bipartisan agreement that delivers an effective farm safety net to our nation’s dairy farmers and cotton producers.”

The Leahy-led dairy provisions make five specific changes:

  1. Moves the Margin Protection Program (MPP) calculations and potential payments to a monthly basis (currently bimonthly) to improve the program’s accuracy and timeliness in responding to market conditions.
  2. Dramatically reduces the premium costs for Tier I enrollment to incentivize producer participation at meaningful coverage levels of protection.
  3. Adjusts the Tier I threshold level corresponding to substantially lower premium costs, to the first 5 million pounds of production, up from the current level of 4 million pounds of production (equivalent to 185 cows). This will better align the program with the median U.S. dairy farm size, 223 cows, and encourage more farms to participate and secure meaningful levels of protection to offer an effective farm safety net.
  4. Waives $100 administrative fees for underserved producers, bringing the program in line with other USDA programs with similar service fee waiver, such as the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).
  5. Continues the program’s current regulation offering farmers a one-time election to participate in the program for the length of the Farm Bill. 

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