The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) urged USDA to use a voucher system when implementing the Dairy Product Donation Program (DPDP).

IDFA’s recommendations came during a public comment period on the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) and DPDP, programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill. Read the full comments here.

Conducted in conjunction with MPP-Dairy, an income margin protection program for dairy farmers, DPDP is designed to increase dairy product demand by donating products to the needy in the event dairy farm profitability falls to catastrophically low levels. By providing funds to be used to increase sales of dairy products, the DPDP should lead to an increase in the farm milk price.

In its comments, IDFA stressed the importance of proper timing and product selection, urging USDA to select a voucher system for distribution. IDFA said USDA must be able to start and stop the program quickly, as required by the statute, to avoid market distortions that could harm international competitiveness and increase costs for other government nutrition programs. This may be difficult to do given that federal and state milk marketing order systems have time lags between when farm milk is marketed, minimum prices are established and payment is made, IDFA said. 

IDFA also said the program should not support any single dairy product or small group of dairy products. Spreading donations across the full range of dairy products would minimize market disruptions.  Moreover, including products with higher minimum regulated prices, especially fluid milk, would have the greatest impact on farm milk prices.

IDFA’s comments provided examples of current effective voucher programs, including the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Great American Milk Drive, sponsored by the Milk Processor Education Program and Feeding America.

“Distribution methods that can accommodate a high volume of dairy products during short time intervals would provide the greatest and most immediate impact on farm milk price recovery – the principal goal of the program,” IDFA said.  

USDA’s comment period has been extended to Dec. 15. Comments can be submitted to USDA via the regulations.gov website at http://go.usa.gov/GJSA.