The National Milk Producers Federation “strongly supports” the Farm Bill approved Thursday night by the House Agriculture Committee, saying that the bill “improves on the status quo while not forcing farmers to confront a radical departure from past policies,” says Jerry Kozak, NMPF president and CEO.
After three days of amendments and deliberation, the ag committee adopted the Farm Bill by a unanimous voice vote. Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said he expects to bring the wide-ranging legislative package before the full House of Representatives as early as this week.
In terms of dairy policy, the House Farm Bill contains significant revisions in the dairy price support program that had been sought by NMPF, shifting the program from one that supports milk prices, to one that supports specific prices for dairy commodities. The bill also extends the current Milk Income Loss Contract program.
The bill also contains another key priority of NMPF’s: the final implementation of the dairy checkoff on imported dairy products, ending the free ride that importers of foreign dairy products have enjoyed for more than 20 years.
“This bill really represents a leap forward in dairy policy from where we are today,” Kozak said. “We appreciate the leadership of Chairman Peterson and Ranking Republican leader Bob Goodlatte in helping shepherd this bill through the committee.”
Kozak said that NMPF will be working hard to support the legislation when it comes to the House floor later this month, and will oppose any alternative legislation, such as the “Farm 21” legislation backed by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI).
“Farm 21 is a giant leap in the wrong direction, in sharp contrast to the committee’s bill,” Kozak said. “We will be advising members of Congress across the country to support the agriculture committee’s product and not any radical replacements for the committee’s carefully crafted compromise.”
The Farm Bill creates a forward contracting program for manufactured classes of milk, including important producer protections sought by NMPF so that the program remains voluntary and not coercive. The forward contracting authority will sunset with the rest of the Farm Bill, and all contracts written during the next five years must expire by 2015.
The bill also includes language requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expedite the hearing process for making changes in Federal Milk Marketing Orders, and to fully use the Dairy Export Incentive Program.
Committee members also reached compromises on several other controversial issues, including adjustments in overall payment limitations for farmers, and the final implementation of country of origin labeling for certain meat products.
The comprehensive bill also includes provisions relating to conservation, energy, trade, nutrition and other elements for which NMPF has been lobbying. A full copy of NMPF’s goals for the farm bill can be found at www.nmpf.org.
National Milk Producers Federation