The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry convened on Thursday afternoon to examine USDA dairy programs. But the hearing brought more questions than answers.
Juan Garcia, Acting Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, shared insight on the MILC payment program, Dairy Export Incentive Program as well as the Livestock Gross Margin program.
Dana Coale, Deputy Administrator for Dairy Programs, Agricultural Marketing Service U.S. Department of Agriculture, shared insight on the 10 Federal Milk Marketing Orders that impact about 65 percent of all milk marketed in the U.S. Coale also shared details on research and promotion, encouraging the committee to keep this program moving forward.
Garcia and Coale’s testimony was followed up by a series of question and answers. Many of the questions were met with, “we’ll look into it.”
U.S. Rep. Dennis Cardosa (D-Calif.) asked about raising the minimum fluid milk nutrition standards nationwide. Such a move, he says, could return several hundred million dollars to producers in a few years, while consumers would pay a penny more per glass with up to a third more calcium and protein the milk.
Coale says that this was one of the 23 proposals submitted by the Dairy Industry Advisory Committee and is currently being reviewed by the department.
Questions were raised in regards to daily price reporting. Coale noted that they are currently in the process of implementing weekly price reporting. It is unknown if daily price reporting will happen.
Foundation for the Future was covered briefly. Coale indicated that Secretary Vilsack has gone on record as saying the draft legislation that has been presented is a good start.
After attending the hearing, National Milk Producers Federation president and CEO Jerry Kozak said, "The general tone of the questions at today's hearing from the committee members indicates a concern that current dairy programs are not up to the task of providing a meaningful farm-level safety net.
"NMPF shares that concern, and that's what has driven the creation of Foundation for the Future. We believe we have the best answer to the bottom line question of what should come next for dairy policy."
Congressman Thomas Rooney, the chairman of the House of Agriculture Subcommittee says the hearing was to gain insight on issues that should be focused. Thursday’s hearing was the tenth in a series of audits of USDA farms programs.
Dairy Farmers of America released a statement following the hearing urging Congress to review and consider the policy proposal authored by Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. This proposal consists of three main components — a margin protection program, a Dairy Market Stabilization Program and reforms to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system. Read the entire statement from DFA here.