June 10, 2014 — Members of the Dairy Markets and Policy Team were asked by the Farm Services Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to partner with them in developing a web-based tool that will assist farmers in making their decisions about participating in the new Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers (MPP). In addition to developing the tool, the team will organize various educational activities and materials to help producers understand how they can use the tool, identify the nuances of how the program works, and think about the milk price and margin risks they face.
“In designing and developing these materials we fully expect to work with and be a resource for the large network of extension educators and industry partners who are routinely in the business of working with dairy farmers and helping them gather the information to think about the management decisions they face every day,” the team said in a statement.
The partnership with USDA will allow FSA and the University based team to coordinate separate responsibilities for the ultimate benefit of dairy farmers. FSA and its regional offices will be the source of information and place to go for producers who want specific information about the program, signup procedures and other specific program information such as eligibility, payment processes and so on. USDA can answer questions about how MPP works and can show interested parties how to find the University based materials. There will be a link to all the Farm Bill decision tools on the USDA website. However, USDA staff will not provide advice to farmers on what decision they should make under MPP.
Our decision support aids will not be designed to provide financial or risk management advice, rather we will try to give producers the tools to help them make the most informed MPP coverage decisions for their farm operation,” team members said. “We encourage producers to take full advantage of all the resources available to them. This is a brand new program, with new rules and new mechanisms. We know quite a bit about the sequence of things that need to happen before MPP is formally launched, but we do not have a specific timetable.”
The Agricultural Act of 2014 instructs USDA to “establish and administer” the new program by 1 September. In the press release announcing the University awards, USDA states: “Sign-up for the newly established Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP) begins late this summer”.
This is a strong indication of their goal but not a specific timetable for the various steps of releasing the rules, starting a sign-up period, and concluding enrollment. There remain many details for FSA to sort out in the implementation of the final and formal program. The framework for a MPP decision tool has been created, but the University team will need to know the final rules before a tool can be finalized and released publically. At this time, they cannot be more specific about when the tool will be available. USDA is already beginning to provide information about the program and will no doubt add to the information on their website as new information becomes available.
Although it is difficult to plan a specific schedule or even to know how much time will be available for various activities, the team is developing a multipronged education plan. There will be web-based educational materials and webinars, but team members also want to do some hands-on workshops.
“As a group, our focus will be on several “trainthe- trainer” type workshops around the U.S. We anticipate that extension educators and industry groups will be developing local educational programs,” they said. “Indeed, USDA is providing additional funding to State Cooperative Extension systems to support the overall producer education effort relative to new FSA-based programs. In our home states and in collaboration with partners elsewhere, we intend to be involved in more direct producer training as well. It will be our highest priority to provide producers with the tools and information that will help them to make the most informed decision possible.”
In the coming weeks and months, producers may visit: www.dairymarkets.org for information on the tool and our educational activities. This website contains publications, data tools, and a variety of information generally applicable to dairy markets and policy.
Members of the Dairy Markets and Policy Team :
Marin Bozic, University of Minnesota
Brian Gould, University of Wisconsin
John Newton, University of Illinois
Charles Nicholson, Penn State University
Andrew Novakovic, Cornell University
Mark Stephenson, University of Wisconsin
Cameron Thraen, Ohio State University
Christopher Wolf, Michigan State University