This isn’t on the scale of educational challenges resulting from, say, the Affordable Healthcare Act, but the point is still that information must be shared quickly and clearly with farmers, and we can’t rely just on the Agriculture Department to do that job. NMPF will be working hard with its members to help shoulder the load.
Another item that’s a holdover from the past, but that is also critical to the future success of the dairy industry, is immigration reform. That effort has moved in fits and starts for more than a decade. The passage of last year’s comprehensive reform bill in the Senate was a crucial and welcome step. The House needs to follow suit and pass similar legislation, in whole or in part, so that we can work with leaders in both chambers to get something done. The window for getting legislation passed in the coming year is narrow but not closed. That’s why we have to resolve to make it happen in 2014.
Yet another priority issue is maximizing the value of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement to America’s dairy farmers. Negotiations of this pact will likely determine this year whether the TPP final agreement represents a net positive opportunity for the U.S. dairy sector. We need greater disciplines on non-tariff barriers, as well as greater access into Canada and Japan, in order for a TPP agreement to be useful to America's dairy farmers. We also need reforms of New Zealand’s dairy policies as part of the deal.
The other thing I’m putting on my list is something I mentioned in my speech last November to NMPF’s members: beginning the dialogue on reforming the Federal Milk Marketing Order system. The industry will need time to adjust to a new dairy safety net in 2014, but the underlying system of determining classified prices also needs to be improved. I believe we can capitalize on the momentum behind the Dairy Security Act, and begin the work within the producer and cooperative community of solving the next, essential piece of the pricing puzzle by addressing federal order reform.
I look forward in 2014 to working on all of these issues, and more, to strengthen our industry and build a more prosperous future for America’s dairy farmers.