The National Milk Producers Federation Board of Directors this week endorsed a    comprehensive dairy policy package for the 2007 Farm Bill. The proposal calls for significant improvements in current federal farm programs, and also features some new elements.

“After a year of discussion and deliberation, I am pleased that our members have come together to support dairy farms of all sizes in all regions of the country, building on the policies that work now, while considering new paths as well,” said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF.

The NMPF proposal calls for changes in the present milk price support program in order to make it more predictable and effective. For the first time, NMPF also is endorsing a milk producer security program that would provide payments directly to dairy farmers. The plan also includes new or expanded programs to address energy, environment, conservation, animal health, nutrition, trade, risk management and other important issues.

“Our Board recognized that because dairy farming today is a diverse, multifaceted business, so, too, must our farm programs acknowledge the needs of that diversity,” said Kozak. “We want a wide-ranging program that provides the best possible support for dairy producers, while recognizing federal budgetary limitations and international trade constraints.”

The NMPF proposal’s change in the milk price support program would shift it from a program that supports the price of milk, to one that explicitly supports the price of specific dairy products that USDA would purchase at established prices. Such a change would provide a firmer safety net under farm-level prices, while making the program easier to administer, Kozak said.

The proposed milk producer security program is designed to provide income protection and consistency to producers, who have been whipsawed recently by rising volatility in farm production costs -- from more expensive fuels, to record-high animal feedstock prices.

NMPF is also proposing initiatives to encourage increased use of on-farm methane digesters and other technologies that can produce renewable energy and improve soil, air and water quality. In addition to other environmental and conservation programs the proposal also addresses nutrition, animal health, and public health and safety initiatives, including the continued support for controlling Johne’s disease and Bovine Tuberculosis.

NMPF also supports increased funding for USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, the reauthorization of the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP), and the final implementation of the dairy promotion checkoff to imported dairy products – a provision passed by Congress in the 2002 farm bill that was never put in place.

NMPF is also supporting improved risk management tools for farmers in the form of a new forward contracting provision for milk in Classes II, III and IV.

“Taken together, this all-inclusive package of policy initiatives will help ensure that the nation’s milk producers remain a viable and vibrant part of the American economy,” Kozak said. “We also believe that this approach improves on the equitability and predictability of our farm programs.”