World Dairy Diary

Farm Bill With Dairy Reform Signed

fb-signingPresident Obama traveled to Michigan State University to sign the Agricultural Act of 2014 on Friday.

“Despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers,” President Obama told the small crowd invited for the signing. “Secretary Vilsack calls it a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, a conservation bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife.”

Obama said passage of the bill by Congress is a good sign they can get other work done. “We’ve got more work to do – to do immigration reform that will help farmers,” he said.

Listen to or download the president’s speech here: President Obama farm bill signing

Commenting on the signing, Dairy Farmers of America Senior Vice President John Wilson said they were thankful for the new bill, “which replaces outdated dairy programs with an important risk management tool that will help the nation’s dairy farm families maintain financial stability.”

“We would like to thank our members, supporters in Congress and National Milk Producers Federation for their tireless pursuit of new dairy policy and a completed bill.

“The unified voice the dairy producer community expressed during this process is admirable, and while the final bill does not reflect the exact policy we had proposed, we achieved our goal of creating dairy policy that will better serve U.S. dairy farmers.”

What do You Like About New Farm Bill

New Holland ZimmPollBefore we get to the Farm Bill let’s look at our latest ZimmPoll which asked the question, “Could drones (UAV’s) serve a purpose on your operation?”

Well over half of the voters this week said that drones could in fact serve a purpose on their operation. Price is still a factor and may be the reason that some operations would not use them yet. We’re going to see a lot more about this new technology since predictions have been made that eighty percent of the multi-million dollar market will be for agricultural use.

Our poll results:

  • Yes, if affordable – 50%
  • No – 18%
  • Yes, at any price – 14%
  • No, worried about privacy – 14%
  • What are they? – 5%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “What’s best in the new farm bill?”

The Senate finally passed its version of a conference bill Jan. 29, and now the farm bill goes to President Obama’s desk. As you can read on Senator Debbie Stabenow’s website: “This isn’t your father’s Farm Bill. It is a bill for our future that grows our agriculture economy, helps provide greater access to healthy Michigan-grown foods, preserves our land and water, and cuts unnecessary spending. The Farm Bill is a rare example of a major bipartisan jobs bill and a bipartisan deficit reduction bill,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. Have you had the chance to review the new bill? Let us know what you think is the best part.

Farm Bill Passed with New Dairy Program

fb-2014The U.S. Senate Tuesday voted 68-32 to approve the Agricultural Act of 2014 which contains a new program for dairy producers.

“It has been a long and torturous road toward the creation of a better safety net for dairy farmers,” said National Milk Producers Federation president and CEO Jim Mulhern.

“We didn’t wind up precisely where we wanted in terms of the dairy program, but the milk glass is more than half-full. The new farm bill replaces three outmoded programs intended to help farmers – but that often failed in that effort. In their place is a new, more modern, and more comprehensive margin protection program offering dairy producers a far better and more effective safety net. Because it is designed to protect against periods of both low milk prices as well as high feed costs, margin insurance is a better risk management tool to help farmers deal with the global volatility in commodity prices in the 21st century.”

Dairy Farmers of America Senior Vice President John Wilson says while they are disappointed the bill does not include the Dairy Security Act (DSA), they “encouraged the new bill replaces outdated dairy policy and includes a margin insurance program, similar to that in the DSA.”

Dairy Farmers Oppose Supply Management

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 10.18.08 AMDairy producer groups from across the United States have teamed up to urge Farm Bill conferees to oppose Supply Management. The proposal is known as the Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP).

A letter signed by numerous dairy farmer associations urges conferees to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, which rejected this controversial new dairy program to impose milk quotas on dairy farmers by more than a two to one margin and replace it with language that allows farmers to participate in a margin insurance program without being required to participate in DMSP.

“It simply is not factual when Representative Peterson states that all dairy farmers want the government to control the milk they produce on their farms through the DMSP. Many dairy farmers from all over the country are aligned and opposed to Supply Management,” said Laurie Fischer, Executive Director of the Dairy Business Association.

The letter reads: “As dairy producers and businesses working in the dairy industry, we ask that you support the dairy title as amended in the House version of the Farm Bill, which excludes the Dairy Market Stabilization Program, also known as Supply Management,”

“We believe this convoluted system is the wrong approach,” the dairy groups continue. “Dairy farmers who take advantage of the margin insurance should not be required to participate in a program that would have the government directly interfere in the milk supply. Limiting the milk supply will discourage further investment and hurt our exports.”

The letter concludes, “We ask you to please work with your fellow conferees to ensure that the final Farm Bill does not include the DMSP, but rather provides a safety net for dairy farmers without Supply Management. A strong majority of the House of Representatives believes this is the right approach for dairy policy and the dairy farmers in the United States hope you will join their leadership in seeing this through to the finish line.”

The complete letter can be found here.

Groups Frustrated with Passage of House Bill

Agricultural groups are discouraged with the passage today of the U.S. House of Representatives’ H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM). The bill slid through with a tight margin of 216 to 208 after more than six hours of debate today and did not include food stamp authorization or nutrition programs, which the House says it will address as separate issues.

In terms of how the bill would affect the dairy industry, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) noted that he worked for four years on a dairy policy and that he lost a vote on the floor for that policy and that was not an easy thing to swallow. “But despite this, I was going to vote in favor of the bill and did vote in favor of the bill,” he said.Rep Peterson

Peterson, who is the Agricultural Committee Ranking member, said they would continue to work with the House on the issue and believes that the bill would have passed sooner if the Goodlatte-Scott dairy amendment had been removed.

Jerry Kozak, President and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation agrees that the Goodlatte-Scott dairy amendment is flawed as well as the entire farm bill that was passed containing a repeal of permanent agricultural law. “Neither of these measures serves the best long-term interests of dairy farmers. The Senate, by contrast, overwhelmingly passed the complete Dairy Security Act, which the National Milk Producers Federation and nearly all dairy farmers enthusiastically supported.

“Nevertheless, today’s action means that there is still hope that a new farm bill can be passed in 2013,” continued Kozak. “Without any progress toward a Senate-House conference committee, we were looking at yet another one-year extension of current programs, which is unacceptable. Today’s vote means that agricultural leaders now can work on improving the House bill and developing better dairy policy than what exists now, and what is contained in this House bill.”

Peterson is optimistic that a five-year farm bill can still be passed that is more favorable to the dairy industry, but the first step is for the House-Senate conference committee to draft a compromised version of the bill. Should one not be passed by both the Senate and the House, the current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, 2013.

Dairy and Food Stamps Kill Farm Bill

peterson-fbRepublican amendments to the dairy program and giving states the option to require able-bodied food stamp recipients to seek employment were the straws that broke the camel’s back when it came to getting a farm bill passed in the House last week. The dairy measure was the Goodlatte-Scott amendment, which effectively killed the Dairy Security Act included in the bill, and the food stamps amendment was sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL).

“Those two votes cost us a lot of votes and I would guess it didn’t get them a damn thing on their side,” House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) told reporters after the vote.

Collin Peterson comments

More farm bill reaction.

In fact, at least 58 Republicans who voted in favor of the deal-killing Southerland amendment voted against the final bill, which was pointed out by several Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who was blamed specifically in a statement by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (D-VA) for failure to pass the bill. Watch her reaction in the YouTube video below.

House Farm Bill Fails

fb-no-buttonDespite an impassioned plea by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to “move this bill forward” the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM) failed on a vote of 194 to 234, with 60 Republicans joining the majority of Democrats to defeat the House version of the farm bill.

“If it fails today, I can’t guarantee you’ll see in this Congress another attempt,” said Lucas. “If you care about your folks, if you care about this institution … vote with me on final. If you don’t, when you leave here they’ll just say it’s a dysfunctional body, a broken institution full of dysfunctional people. That’s not true!”

Listen to Rep. Lucas urging his colleagues to vote for the bill Rep. Frank Lucas on the House farm bill

Among the Republicans voting against the bill was Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), despite the fact that the House voted to approve his amendment striking the Dairy Market Stabilization Program and replacing it with a stand-alone margin insurance program for dairy producers.

Here’s a link to Roll Call vote.

Rep. Peterson Celebrates June Dairy Month

peterson-dairyCongressman Collin Peterson (D-MN) visited with Kandiyohi County Dairy Ambassadors during West Central Dairy Days in Willmar last week. He is pictured here with ambassadors Caroline Holmberg; Kristen, Kate, and Meghan Dimler; and Eva Damhof.

“As we celebrate National Dairy Month, a number of festivals are being held in communities across the 7th District in tribute to the hard work of our dairy farmers,” Peterson said in his weekly newsletter. “The Senate passed their version of the Farm Bill late Monday night, so now it is up to the House to finish our work and get both sides to conference.”

“This process has gone on far too long but with the strong bipartisan support in the Senate, I’m optimistic the House will be able to consider our farm bill next week. It’s going to be difficult but if everything stays on track, I believe it’s possible to get a bill to the President before the August recess, finally providing some certainty for our farmers, ranchers and consumers,” said Peterson, adding that Speaker Boehner has now said he will support the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill, despite some reservations. “The House Rules Committee has announced a potential meeting next week to set the parameters for debating the farm bill on the floor of the House.”

Boehner Supports Farm Bill Despite Dairy Provisions

boehnerSpeaker of the House John Boehner says he would vote for the House Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) of 2013, but intends to try and change the dairy provisions.

“I’ve got concerns about the farm bill, as I told our members,” Boehner said during the Republican Leadership press conference Wednesday. “But doing nothing means that we get no changes in the farm program, no changes in the nutrition program. And as a result, I’m going to vote for the farm bill to make sure that the good work of the Agriculture Committee and whatever the floor might do to improve this bill gets to a conference so that we can get the kind of changes that people want in our nutrition programs and our farm programs.”

Boehner sound bite: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

On Monday, Boehner released a statement about the farm bill noting that his main problem with the bill is dairy. “I had concerns about some of the dairy provisions of the Farm Bill last year, and those concerns remain this year. I oppose those provisions and will support efforts on the House floor to change them appropriately.”

Farm Bill Now up to House

The Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 by a vote of 66 to 27 on Monday evening, putting even more pressure on the House of Representatives to complete its work to get a bill to conference and passed by the end of summer. Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), a member of the House agriculture committee, is hopeful.

vicky-small“Certainly that should be the goal,” says Rep. Hartzler. “I know the leadership of the House Ag and I think the Senate Ag Committee as well want to see this done and wrapped up by August, so we’re certainly going to try.”

Rep. Hartzler says the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) of 2013 is a good bill that deserves to pass so she is cautiously optimistic it will once it gets to the floor next week. “But there are going to be a lot of amendments and there is going to be a lot of discussion,” she said. “There’s a lot of controversial aspects to the bill among several members.”

Those controversial issues include food assistance and the dairy program. The full House is expected to take up its version of a farm bill next week.

Listen to or download interview with Rep. Hartzler: Interview with Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)

House Ag Committee Supports DSA in Farm Bill

The House Agriculture Committee came out in support of the Dairy Security Act (DSA) on Wednesday, voting to reject an amendment by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA) to remove the supply management mechanism of the act.

“Supply management is antithetical to the future growth of the dairy industry,” Goodlatte and Scott said in a statement expressing their disappointment in the vote. “A supply control program that will directly intervene in markets and increase milk prices will ultimately hurt dairy producers and consumers as well as dairy food manufacturers by stifling industry growth. This program is contrary to the reforms already in the Farm Bill.”

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) was pleased with the outcome. “The House committee has now twice rejected the Goodlatte-Scott effort to undermine establishment of a workable national dairy policy,” said NMPF president and CEO Jerry KozaK. “As the farm bill moves to the House floor, we hope that the committee’s decision today will be the final word on the matter. It is time for dairy processors to end their campaign of divisiveness, and assist us in moving the farm bill toward completion.”

lucasThe committee worked for over five hours straight on the bill before taking a break, but will reconvene this evening to finish. By contrast, the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday completed its work in less than four hours. House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) met with farm broadcasters just shortly before his committee began the markup saying he expected it to be a long day but maybe not quite as long as last year’s 15 hour session. “But I would note that we had approximately 100 amendments a year ago, as of this morning we have approximately 100 amendments this time,” he said.

Lucas says the bill will go to the House floor this year “a dramatic improvement over a year ago” but he does expect it to be a struggle. “Whatever we do in the committee, many of the battles – whether it is over dairy, or sugar, or the size of the nutrition reforms, will be fought out again on the floor of the United States House,” he said. “But it’s a struggle we’re prepared to engage in and we’re prepared to move forward on.”

Listen to Lucas’s comments here House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas

Ag Secretary Sees Dairy as Challenge in Farm Bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted 15-5 today to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, which includes the Dairy Security Act.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom VilsackThe House Agriculture Committee will take up their version of the bill on Wednesday, where an alternative plan to the DSA will be proposed. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told farm broadcasters meeting in Washington on Tuesday that he expects dairy to be a challenge in the farm bill.

“I think everybody likes the price stabilization piece of it, (but) how do you ensure that it doesn’t break the bank financially,” said Vilsack. “But clearly something’s got to get done in dairy because we’ve had too much volatility and we’ve lost too many of our producers because of it.”

Listen to Vilsack’s comments here: Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Mtg. with NAFB

A new analysis of the two dairy proposals under consideration in the House Agriculture Committee finds the Dairy Security Act (DSA) would better for farmers and less costly for taxpayers compared to the Goodlatte-Scott alternative.

The new report, prepared by University of Missouri agricultural economists Scott Brown and Daniel Madison, assessed how each option would have affected farm-level economics during the period 2009 through 2012. Under that model they found the DSA would have increased net farm revenues by $0.55 per cwt over the period studied, while the Goodlatte-Scott amendment would have raised farm revenue by only $0.48 per cwt. In addition, the model suggests that the Goodlatte-Scott proposal would have cost $1 billion over the 2009 to 2012 period compared to the DSA, because it would encourage more milk production at lower margins.

Farm Bill Markups Begin

NAFB Washington WatchThe Senate Agriculture Committee meets this morning to consider the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 and the House ag committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning to consider their version of a farm bill. Drafts from both committees were released last week.

Chris Galen with the National Milk Producers Federation says both drafts contain the Dairy Security Act and he expects the Senate to pass this proposal which they support, but on the House side there is another proposal being offered which they oppose. “Basically it would turn farmers into takers of government welfare because it would not allow the marketplace to correct quick enough,” he said. “They would be getting margin insurance subsidized by the government but not getting the necessary price signals that would either restore the market price for milk or reduce the cost to the taxpayer of the program.” That alternative is being proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

Galen says Congress appears to be serious about getting a farm bill passed this year. “I don’t think anyone wants a repeat of 2012,” he said. “The good news is that we’ve heard rumors that not only is the Senate Ag committee going to work on the farm bill this week, but they may actually vote on it on the Senate floor this week.” The House was a hold out last week, of course, but Galen hopes they will schedule time for it this year. “I think the stars and planets will align and that they will either be desperate enough or sick enough to get us a new farm bill this year.”

Listen to an interview with Galen conducted yesterday in Washington D.C. at the annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting Washington Watch: Interview with Chris Galen, National Milk Producers Federation

Link to Senate farm bill page.
Link to House farm bill draft.

Coalition of Organizations Support Dairy Security Act

dsaA coalition of more than 50 state and national dairy organizations have sent a letter to members of the House Agriculture Committee urging them to include the Dairy Security Act in the farm bill when they begin mark up next week. The letter states the need for “a financially-sound risk management program to help farmers better manage margin volatility.”

The groups further ask the Committee members to reject the Dairy Freedom Act put forth by Congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA) “because it would weaken the safety net for farmers in order to benefit dairy processors.” The Dairy Freedom Act does not contain the market stabilization component the DSA does. The groups contend the supply management provision would send a clear signal to farmers when production needs to be reduced resulting in a faster rebound in low-market situations.

Supporters of the Dairy Security Act argue the production controls would be detrimental to the dairy industry in that producers and processors would be reluctant to grow and expand for fear they may be called upon to cut milk output at some point. They also say that would make us an unreliable supplier on the world market.

The Senate Ag Committee is scheduled to mark up their farm bill on Tuesday but there are no indications the alternative Dairy Freedom Act will be introduced in that committee.

Some Dairy Interests Pleased with Farm Bill Extension

While the National Milk Producers Federation is very opposed to the farm bill extension included in the fiscal cliff deal, at least one other dairy group supports the extension.

dbaOfficials with the Dairy Business Association (DBA) in Wisconsin say they are “extremely pleased” with the extension because they are opposed to the program that was included in the Senate version of the farm bill passed last year.

“The supply management program was rejected because legislators in Congress realized that if it were passed; this communism style of dairy policy would intrude on dairy markets by controlling the milk supply and artificially creating demand for dairy products at higher prices. Supply management programs have been tried before, been proven to be a mistake and a costly failure. We can’t continue to make the same mistakes,” said Laurie Fischer, Executive Director of the Dairy Business Association. “The removal of the Dairy Security Act from the farm bill extension is a victory for the Nation’s dairy producers.”

DBA worked persistently to educate members of Congress on the harmful impacts limiting milk production advocating for the consideration a milk insurance program instead. DBA had advocated for reforming the dairy safety net programs, but DBA believed the Dairy Security Act would have taken our Nation’s dairy industry in the wrong direction.

“Limiting milk production and paying producers to not produce milk just doesn’t make sense,” added Jerry Meissner, DBA’s President. “In spite of some national dairy groups advising legislators that all farmers were in favor of supply management, it simply is not the truth. Farmers from across the nation are not in favor of this provision.”

DBA release

Farmer Poll Favors Romney

A poll for election day shows a significant majority of farmers say they are voting Romney over Obama for president, and most blame Democrats for failure to pass a new farm bill.

The Agri-Pulse Farm and Rural Poll released today found that 78 percent of farmers polled are voting for Mitt Romney in the presidential election.

On November 1, 2012, Pulse Opinion Research conducted a telephone survey of 319 farmers and ranchers who are likely voters. Questions covered the presidential election, farm bill priorities, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s job performance rating, the Renewable Fuels Standard, and other topics.

The telephone survey found that 71 percent of respondents strongly disapprove of President Obama’s job performance while 12 percent strongly approve. Of all farmers polled, 51 percent labeled themselves Republican, 26 percent Democrat.

It may not be surprising that 92 percent of self-identified Republican respondents picked Romney as their presidential vote, but more than half (53 percent) of the self-identified Democrat respondents also picked Romney. Additionally, 74 percent of farmers who identified themselves as “other” in party affiliation expressed preference for Romney.

Asked whether Republicans or Democrats are to blame for the failure to pass a new farm bill, 46 percent answered Democrats while 28 percent said both parties are equally responsible. Nineteen percent blamed Republicans. Interestingly, 35 percent of self-identified Democrats blamed their own party, while only 7 percent of self-identified Republicans blamed theirs.

When it came to identifying the biggest threats to the future of their farming operations, environmental regulations came out on top with 33%, with tax burdens next at 29%. The third biggest threat identified is “activist groups who oppose modern farming methods” at 16 percent.

See all the questions and poll results here.

Milking Parlor: Vilsack Talks Farm Bill, Regs at WDE

It’s regulations and legislation on the minds of dairy farmers. Producers are worried about whether they will be able to get a waiver from the federal Food and Drug Administration for corn hit by aflatoxin because of the drought, as well the lack of a new farm bill, which means the loss of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program, reverting back to the original 1949 pricing policy.

In this edition of the Milking Parlor, we hear from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as he tackled these issues during the recent World Dairy Expo … and even a peak at what his future might be should President Obama get re-elected.

Listen to the Milking Parlor here: Milking Parlor Podcast with Secretary Vilsack

To subscribe to the Milking Parlor podcast, click here.

Listen to Secretary of Ag Vilsack at World Dairy Expo

We had a great town hall meeting today with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. He spent an hour and a half taking questions after making some opening remarks.

I’ve uploaded the whole session for your listening pleasure. He really hammered Congress for not passing a farm/food/jobs bill and addressed a number of other topics as the audience asked questions.

You can listen to Secretary Vilsack’s Town Hall at World Dairy Expo or download here: Sec. Vilsack Town Hall

After the town hall meeting the Secretary visited with the press. I got a couple questions in on that session. He was asked if he’d stay on as Secretary if President Obama wins re-election but kind of dodged it, calling it a complicated question. He says he has the best job in the world.

You can listen to and download his presser right after the session here: Sec. Vilsack with Press

2012 World Dairy Expo Photo Album

World Dairy Diary coverage of the World Dairy Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill

Several major agricultural organizations issued a joint statement today on the official expiration of the 2008 farm bill.

The 2008 law governing many of our nation’s farm policies expired on Sunday, September 30th, and the 2012 Farm Bill needed to replace it is bottled up in Congress. While the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees were both able to pass their versions of the new farm bill, the full House was unable to do so. While expiration of farm bill program authorities has little or no effect on some important programs, it has terminated a number of important programs and will very adversely affect many farmers and ranchers, as well as ongoing market development and conservation efforts.

Congress will return in mid-November for a lame-duck session prior to final adjournment in December. We will work to have the first order of business for the House of Representatives be to consider a new Farm Bill. We are urging our members to seek out their House members between now and the elections and remind them of the consequences of not having a new bill in place prior to adjournment at the end of the year.

Among the organizations issuing the joint statement is the National Milk Producers Federation, since one of the programs that is now expired is the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. “Dairy producers will face considerable challenges,” said the groups’ statement. “That program compensated dairy producers when domestic milk prices fall below a specified level. Without a new farm bill, dairy farmers are left with uncertainty and inadequate assistance. While milk prices are high enough that the price support program doesn’t kick in; unfortunately, there is no other safety net to help battle the highest feed costs on record.”

Read more here.

Milking Parlor: No Farm Bill Puts Dairy WAY Back

Congress left town with a little unfinished business… in this case, without passing a new farm bill! The old one expired at the end of September, and for dairy, that means the expiration of the Milk Income Loss Contract … or MILC … Program. And that means that program reverts back to the original 1949 policy.

In this edition of the Milking Parlor, we hear from American Farm Bureau Farm Policy Specialist Dale Moore, National Milk Producers Federation spokesman Chris Galen, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, as they talk about the implications on dairy by the lack of a farm bill at this point and what it could mean for the future.

Listen to the Milking Parlor here: Milking Parlor Podcast on RFS Waiver Request

To subscribe to the Milking Parlor podcast, click here.

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