Recently, I was in Washington D.C. attending the National Milk Producers Federation board of directors meeting where we took action on several issues and received various reports from NMPF staff which included the 2023 Farm Bill and the Dairy Pride Act.
While I was there, I had the opportunity to meet with Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, legislative staff for Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Derrick Van Orden, the newly elected Representative from Wisconsin, who represents western Wisconsin. Joining me were Steve Schlangen, dairy farmer and Chairman of the Board for AMPI, and Steve Etka, our D.C. based lobbyist for the Midwest Dairy Coalition.
At the meetings, I expressed FarmFirst’s continued support for the Dairy Margin Coverage program as it has proven to be a very important risk management tool for dairy farmers. During the meetings, we asked for the following enhancements to the program.
- Increasing the five million-pound annual production limit for Tier I premiums to eight million pounds to address the growth in average dairy herd size.
- Updating the production history used for Tier I by incorporating the updated production history concept from the 2019 Supplemental DMC payments.
- Increasing the top DMC margin level from $9.50 to $10.00 per hundredweight, to partially offset costs of non-feed inputs.
As you might guess all of our enhancements have a price tag and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet “scored” these DMC program changes so we will have wait and see which updates are doable or if we will need to find additional funding.
At my meetings, we also discussed the Nutrition Title which is extremely important when it come to getting enough votes to pass a Farm Bill. As you may have heard or read, there are several members of Congress interested in cutting spending for nutrition assistance programs and a compromise will be needed in order to get the necessary votes to pass the Farm Bill.
At the NMPF board meeting, Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania and Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and a great supporter of the dairy industry, came to discuss his priorities for the Farm Bill and I asked him about the Nutrition Title.
Chairman Thompson responded by saying that our nutrition programs need to be innovative and flexible, focus on independence (provide a helping hand, not a handout), have integrity, and promote health eating. I wholeheartedly agree with his goals.
The other issue discussed was the recent introduction of the Dairy Pride Act in both the Senate and the House. Senator Tammy Baldwin is the lead author in the Senate and several Upper Midwest Senators and members of the House of Representatives have cosponsored the bill
The bipartisan legislation requires the Food and Drug Administration to fully enforce its own regulations with respect to the proper labeling of milk and the misuse of labeling by plant-based and other imitation milk and dairy products.
As you may know, the FDA recently released a proposed guidance on the labeling of plant-based beverages, which falls short of what the dairy industry wants or consumers deserve, and equally short of full enforcement of FDA’s own standards of identity regulations for milk labeling.
The portion of FDA’s guidance that does improve the consumer marketplace is front-of-packaging disclosures by plant-based beverages of the nutritional inferiority of their product to milk. While it does not have the same strength as regulation and the FDA guidance is not binding, most companies chose to follow such voluntary FDA guidance for fear of bad publicity or legal challenges. The guidance document may provide momentum to get the Dairy Pride Act passed.
Dairy farmers have an opportunity until April 24 to comment on the FDA guidance document and can get the proper link and additional information within this edition of Milkline.
I was encouraged with the genuine interest of the legislators to be as helpful as possible and support these two priorities. I am not naïve enough to think getting the Farm Bill or the Dairy Pride Act passed will be a slam dunk, but I know that with FarmFirst’s work, the work of our partners and FarmFirst members reaching out to members of Congress asking for support, we have a great opportunity for success.