Now that a bill has been introduced in Congress to fundamentally reform federal dairy policy, an effort is under way to get the bill passed and fulfill many of the promises proposed by the Foundation for the Future program.
Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, told AgriTalk radio on Wednesday that his organization is working with the bill’s principal sponsors — Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) — to gather more co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"We're encouraging all of our farmers now to contact their representatives and get on the bill so we can get this moved through the House Agriculture Committee, so the (full) House can act on it,” Kozak said.
At the same time, NMPF is encouraging Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and others to look at the Peterson-Simpson Bill and try to get it introduced in the Senate, as well.
After nearly two years of strategic planning, unveiling Foundation for the Future, meeting with farmers, and receiving criticism from some quarters (including processors), Kozak expressed optimism.
He said he feels good about what's ahead, "because I think we're an organization who has shown that we're willing to compromise. The processing sector hasn't done anything to come to the table. All they said is 'no' to everything.
“I think we’re starting to see people come to our defense,” he said.
In a grassroots tour that NMPF conducted this summer, even farmers who were not overly pleased with some of the provisions of Foundation for the Future acknowledged that at least NMPF was trying to do something to reform the current system. And, Kozak added, it’s important that producers control the change rather than having the changes decided by someone else.
“You may not like this, this or that of our package, but would you rather have the Congress decide… would you rather have the processors decide for you if you are producers? I don’t think so,” he said.
The Peterson-Simpson Bill, or Dairy Security Act of 2011, consists of three main components: a Dairy Producer Margin Protection Program, a Dairy Market Stabilization Program and reforms to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system. It is modeled after the Foundation for the Future program, although some tweaks have been made.