The dairy industry faced both losses and wins last year, largely supported by the NMPF’s lobbying efforts in Washington DC. Paul Bleiberg, the VP of government relations at NMPF, spoke on the organization’s podcast ‘Dairy Defined’ about the year’s victories.
Bleiberg said NMPF’s first notable achievement of 2019 was the successful implementation of the Dairy Margin Coverage program. It resulted in more than $300m in payments sent to producers across the country last year.
It was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and made available through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). It offers protection to dairy producers from fluctuating milk prices and feed costs.
The NMPF made it a goal during the 2018 Farm Bill to significantly revamp dairy policies like this one as the current margin protection program was not working. Bleiberg said the organization was able to accomplish that objective.
The second accomplishment of NMPF's year was the progress made on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. It’s an immigration reform legislation that aims to re-stabilize dairy’s current workforce, according to Bleiberg.
He said months of negotiation led the House to pass a bipartisan bill that will both stabilize the current workforce and allow for access to a usable future flow of workers.
The House passing the USMCA bill was NMPF’s third 2019 success story, with Bleiberg calling it a joint effort with the group’s trade policy team. In 2020, the Senate is likely to pass the USMCA soon.
“The signs point to them doing that but we’re hopeful that it happens very quickly and gets that one in the books,” Bleiberg said.
A big focus of NMPF this year will be working with the Senate on the agriculture labor issue, following on from the success in the House. Beyond this and USMCA, Bleiberg called it “a little bit of a mixed bag.”
“With an election year, sometimes legislative activity grinds to a halt,” he said.
Transportation and infrastructure, childhood nutrition and the Dairy Pride Act all have potential for activity this year. But he also stressed that dairy can have a significant impact on the 2020 elections, as many big dairy states also act as swing states.
He encouraged milk producers to get involved with the issues and make their voices heard to their representatives.