The National Milk Producers Federation has again called for government help for dairy farmers plagued by falling prices. The Federation called on Congress and President Obama to focus immediately on the dairy crisis, according to Chris Galen, in Thursday’s broadcast, stating that they are very concerned about where prices are and where they’re going.
You’ll recall two weeks ago that Galen reported on a letter sent to outgoing Agriculture Secretary, Ed Shafer, calling for more aggressive help to deal with the collapse in dairy product prices. The letter contained a list of recommendations by National Milk.
One of the most important acts, Galen said, is to improve the ability of manufacturers to sell cheese to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) under the price support program. The reason cheese prices have fallen below the government support price, he said, is that companies are choosing to sell to the commercial market at a lower price rather than going through the hassle of selling it to the USDA.
National Milk has called on USDA to alter its grading and packaging standards so it’s easier for companies to sell product to the CCC at a higher price. The Federation also called for increased purchases of dairy products for government domestic and international feeding programs and to resurrect the Dairy Export Incentive Program, which hasn’t been used for five years.
I asked him about the rumor that was circulating in Washington last week that the so-called stimulus package being crafted in Congress would include a government-sponsored dairy herd buyout program. Galen said that, whenever you have a bill of such magnitude (over $800 billion) to spend, you have just about as many opinions as to where that money should be used.
NMPF is not seeking that, Galen said, but remains focused on utilizing its own six-year old, CWT program and is not looking for a government run program.
The Federation also initiated legal action last month to stop USDA from selling nonfat dry milk through a third party that could have resulted in prices lower than those specified in the price support program. As reported last week, the Department has announced that it will not proceed with this plan.
The new Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, has only been on the job for a week, Galen said, and is just putting together his team, “so we need to cut him a little slack, on the other hand, a lot of these decisions could be done by people who are not political appointees at USDA and we really think that they need to get moving on these things because it’s apparent that we’re in for a period of low prices, prices are below the price support level right now for cheese and something needs to be done to turn the situation around.” Click Here for more Dairy News