Pending farm bill has big implications for dairy

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

“This bill is a strong start to addressing the issues our producers are facing right now, particularly our dairy farmers." Pic: ©GettyImages/bernardbodo
“This bill is a strong start to addressing the issues our producers are facing right now, particularly our dairy farmers." Pic: ©GettyImages/bernardbodo

Related tags Farm Bill Agriculture Dairy farmers Trade deal

The US is close to passing a landmark $867bn farm bill after months of negotiation and compromise. It has already passed the Senate and the House and is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump within the coming days.

The bill encompasses different facets of the agriculture industry looking for relief from Trump’s ongoing trade war with China. It includes the legalization of the production of hemp, the preservation of the Conservation Stewardship Program and permanent funding for farmers markets and local food programs.

Agriculture Committee Chairmen Sen. Pat Roberts said, “As promised, this farm bill provides much needed certainty and predictability for all producers – of all crops – across all regions across the country. I thank my counterparts in the Senate and House for coming to – and staying at – the table to reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement for rural America.”

Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson said “This bill is a strong start to addressing the issues our producers are facing right now, particularly our dairy farmers. The bill’s new provisions will offer more flexible coverage for lower cost when dairy farmers need it most, and provide producers more tools to manage their risk. It also invests $300m in the prevention and response for animal pests and disease.”

Dairy on the upswing

Dairy groups reacted to details of the bill and its passing this week, applauding and thanking representatives for the improvements to the dairy community it can provide. The bill includes fully-funded programs that promote trade to support global dairy investments.

It also creates Dairy Margin Coverage, formerly known as the Margin Protection Program, which improves the use of multiple risk management, expanding potential coverage to all-size farms.

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), thanked the Senate for the bill’s dairy program reform, like the affordable higher coverage levels and greater flexibility to access Tier 1 premium rates.

“The farm bill’s bipartisan support in the Senate is a vote of confidence in US agriculture, and it’s a reason for hope among dairy producers,”​ he said.

“As dairy struggles with low prices and disrupted exports, the Senate has stepped up with improved programs that will help producers.”

John Rettler, president of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, said, “The timely release of the Farm Bill shows that leadership in Washington DC heard the concerns of the people this legislation affects –those that farm, but also those citizens that utilize government assistance to provide food for their table.

"Specifically, for dairy, valuable reforms were made to the dairy title, making the risk management program much more useful to dairy farmers and their management plans.”

Brody Stapel, president of the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, said, “We are breathing a sigh of relief that the bill has made it to this point — and that it includes important priorities for dairy farmers. Now, we call on Congress and President Trump to act quickly to make it law.”

“Dairy farmers are hurting and have been hanging on in hopes of something positive, and this bill delivers improvements for our farmers.

“As critical as it is, the farm bill is not the end of the story. This achievement should be a springboard to other improvements that the government can affect, including developing new world markets for dairy products and resolving the tariff retaliation that is severely hurting our dairy community. We need, and expect, leaders to carry the momentum of this bill forward.”

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