In a letter sent last week to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Edge laid out three areas the cooperative sees as critical as the USDA considers how to apply relief from money allocated under the CARES Act economic stimulus package.
The cooperative’s communication adds to other proposals, including the Milk Crisis Program, promoted by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and International Dairy Farmers Association (IDFA). After the Milk Crisis Program was submitted, the American Dairy Coalition (ADC) said a key part of the plan is flawed.
Then Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue it says will help farmers through the pandemic crisis, and the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, with support of the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance, has submitted its own plan.
Edge said it wants direct financial relief to dairy farmers, including for losses by farmers who have had to dispose of milk due to the collapse of a massive market in food service.
It also is looking for major government purchases of dairy foods to fill a growing need among food assistance programs.
And the cooperative said there is a need for increased flexibility in labeling, packaging and nutritional guidelines for dairy products redistributed to food assistance programs so people can receive the food without delays.
Edge stressed the USDA response for dairy must be equitable, farm size-neutral and all-encompassing.
“Instead of folding in the face of COVID-19, farmers have answered the call by continuing to provide safe, nutritious food that people need to live healthy lives,” the group said in its letter.
“We are doing our part, but we need help to continue this mission.”
Parts of Edge’s request align with programs recommended by other dairy groups, including Minnesota Milk Producers Association, and the NMPF and IDFA plan.
In seeking financial relief for farmers, Edge is pushing for a two-part response. One is the Dairy CORE Program proposed by the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, which would provide immediate financial relief to dairy farmers for April, May and June through a $3 per hundredweight payment for each month relative to a farm’s milk production in March. The program would make one $9 per hundredweight lump sum payment up front.
The second part is disaster-type payments for milk losses incurred during the month of April, based on March production.
“Regardless of decisions already made, all farmers would have the opportunity to plan their operations around the Dairy CORE Program. No farmers should be left behind,” the cooperative said.
Earlier this month, Edge joined several other Midwest agricultural groups in broadly recommending bulk food purchases and direct financial help for farmers.
The most recent communication identifies mechanisms to deliver that help.