Taking a cue from IDFA President Connie Tipton’s exhortation to “get serious about finding solutions that help everyone in the supply chain,” IDFA Vice President Ruth Saunders led a lively panel discussion at Dairy Forum 2013 focusing on the outlook for the Farm Bill.
The panelists were Harry Katrichis who represents California Dairies, Inc. at The Advocacy Group, a lobbying firm in Washington, DC; Jackie Klippenstein, vice president for industry and legislative affairs for Dairy Farmers of America; and Tyson Redpath, senior vice president of government affairs with the Russell Group. Saunders posed a variety of questions, including several submitted by the session's audience of more than 300 attendees.
'Nothing Is Automatic in the House'
The panel moved from a broad discussion about the politics around the Farm Bill impasse and the recent “dairy cliff” to specifics about the Dairy Security Act. When asked how Congress will approach the Farm Bill this year, Redpath, a former staffer for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) answered, “The process in the House of Representatives is fraught with peril. Nothing is automatic in the House.”
He later added, “You are not going to sign a five-year lease on the Farm Bill until we have a budget.”
Katrichis noted, “There wasn't one hearing on dairy policy in the Senate of the 112th Congress. There need to be more hearings.”
The group also discussed the changing dynamics of the Agriculture Committees in the House and the Senate, as well as the likelihood of their continued support of the Dairy Security Act.
“The DSA is a product of compromise,” Klippenstein reminded the panel. “It was mandatory at one time; now it is voluntary.”
In response, Katrichis said, “The DSA is voluntary in name only because, if you want margin insurance, you must take the supply management.”
Klippenstein parried back, saying, “The term supply management has a 1980s look to it. Folks need to rethink that term.”
Moving Forward on Areas of Consensus
Saunders asked the group if it was possible to move forward on the areas where the dairy industry is not divided, including fundamental support for getting rid of the Milk Income Loss Contract program (MILC), the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP) and the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP) and consensus on margin insurance protection for dairy farmers. She wondered if “we have forgotten that we agree on these significant reforms in the Dairy Security Act because we are so caught up fighting about the stabilization program?”
Redpath said federal dairy legislation always leads to more. “That is why many fear the stabilization program. No matter what you call it, supply management or a 'production disincentive' program simply allows more government interference in the dairy marketplace that is already highly regulated,” he added.