Leading up to the formulation of the 2013 Farm Bill, two House Agriculture Committee members introduced a bill Thursday that forges a bipartisan compromise approach to reforming U.S. dairy policy.

The “Dairy Freedom Act” by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA) provides a safety net for dairy farmers that would establish a new revenue insurance program for times of low milk prices and high feed costs. The bill also would eliminate three existing and out-of-date dairy programs.

The Dairy Freedom Act would establish a new Dairy Producer Margin Insurance Program and would repeal the Dairy Product Price Support Program, the Milk Income Loss Contract Program and the Dairy Export Incentive Program.

The features of the new bill essentially mirror the proposal offered in the last Congress by Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), but it doesn’t include the highly controversial supply management program called the Dairy Market Stabilization Program. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), representing companies that make milk and dairy products across the country, strongly endorses the new Goodlatte-Scott compromise bill.

“This is a true middle-ground approach as no one gets everything they want, and Congress should use it as a way to move the Farm Bill forward,” said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy.

At the end of last year, Congress reached a stalemate on dairy policy because leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees proposed to put the controversial supply management program in the extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. Their dairy package was rejected in the Farm Bill extension, because the new program would have periodically imposed limits on milk production, raising consumer prices for dairy products and increasing the costs of federal food and nutrition programs.  

“The new Goodlatte-Scott legislation does not include the highly divisive supply management program and thus will help clear the path to complete the 2013 Farm Bill,” added Slominski.

Growing Support for Goodlatte-Scott Approach

A Harris poll fielded last year found that 81 percent of Americans agree that individual farmers should have the freedom to decide how much milk they produce and not have a limit set by government policy. This view is reinforced by many associations and groups that have taken a strong position against any dairy policy that restricts the milk supply. Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and the National Consumers League have all spoken out against the Dairy Market Stabilization Program. Conservative groups, including Citizens Against Government Waste, National Taxpayers Union and others, also oppose supply management, which would increase prices and government spending for dairy products.

In addition to the consumer and taxpayer groups, restaurant and food groups also oppose milk supply limits. These groups include the National Restaurant Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Chain Restaurant Association, the National Grocers Association and the National Frozen Pizza Institute.

Dairy producer groups have also voiced their opposition. The Dairy Policy Action Committee, the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association, Alliance Dairies (Florida), the Board of Directors of Bongards’ Creameries (Minnesota), Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative (Wisconsin), First District Association (Minnesota), High Desert Milk (Idaho), Minnesota Milk Producers Association, National All-Jersey Inc. (Ohio) and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association have all publicly stated their opposition to supply management, as has California Dairies, Inc., the nation’s second-largest dairy cooperative.

“We applaud Representatives Goodlatte and Scott for finding a compromise dairy bill that will bring all stakeholders together,” said Slominski. “Our dairy industry is a growing and important part of our economy, and this Farm Bill proposal will ensure a strong safety net for dairy farmers, while avoiding new regulations that could curb exports and cut jobs. The dairy programs in the Farm Bill should allow the dairy industry a chance to compete and grow without the government regulating the amount of milk a farmer can produce. Today’s consumers around the globe deserve an abundant, affordable and sustainable food supply.”