As the Foundation for the Future town hall meetings kicked off this week in Olympia, Wash., and Visalia, Calif., Jerry Kozak, president and chief executive officer of the National Milk Producers Federation, told audience members, “status quo just won’t do anymore.”
Kozak explained to audience members at the Visalia, Calif., town hall meeting that people have a right to different views and opinions, but when it comes to current dairy policies, status quo just isn’t acceptable. “I understand that there are concerns with the current program. We’re going to take everything we hear in this grassroots tour and see what we can address in the program. There will be some concerns we will be able to address and others we just won’t be able to address,” he says. “But we’re listening.”
In addition to listening to producers, the goal of the Foundation for the Future town hall meetings is to educate producers, processors and industry about the program. “There are a lot of parts to Foundation for the Future that people don’t understand,” notes Kozak.
Foundation for the Future would effectively replace the federal dairy support program. It initiates a new dairy producer margin protection program, revises the federal milk marketing order, and establishes a new dairy market stabilization program.
“Foundation for the Future isn’t the most perfect program; it has warts and parts may give some dairy farmers heartburn, but we had to construct something that would actually be passed by Congress,” explains Kozak. “If we wait to put together a perfect program, we’ll never get anywhere.” And, he says, the political reality is if it's not a program that can be passed, you’ll get nothing.
Dairy producers in attendance at the meeting shared mixed reviews of the program. Jake Verberg a dairy farmer from Modesto, Calif., shared concerns over the fact that 50 percent of any monies collected as a result of the triggering of the Dairy Market Stabilization Program would be remitted to the Treasury rather than 100 percent being spent to purchase dairy products.
In response, Kozak said that they don’t expect a tremendous amount of money to be collected. But he also adds, “We have to keep in perspective this is a package, and with everything in life there are compromises.”
Concerns were also raised in regards to prices. “The program is not about price; it’s about margin,” says Kozak.
Accolades were also given to the program. “The Foundation for the Future is the mechanism to bring stability to our industry,” says Cornell Kasbergen, dairy farmer from Tulare, Calif. Kasbergen also noted that we are in a different era and have to look forward to the future and stop looking backwards.
Foundation for the Future may not be able to solve every issue in the country, but it is a program that helps everyone in some way, notes Kozak.
The ball has already started rolling in Congress. On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee’s Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) introduced draft legislation that incorporates key elements of the Foundation for the Future program.
More town hall meetings are slated for next week in Lubbock, Texas; Alexandria, Minn., and Dubuque, Iowa.