Debate Over Federal Dairy Policy Continues

The debate over federal dairy policy continues and this week that discussion moved to the Midwest. Dairy Profit Weekly editor, Dave Natzke, reported highlights Friday from a Dairy Price Forum hosted by the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

Dairy policy forum moves to Midwest Natzke said the mood was probably summed up best by Bill Bruins, dairy farmer and Wisconsin Farm Bureau president, who said the major challenges facing the U.S. dairy industry include fixing domestic policy issues, while addressing the potential of growing global markets. He described the industry, which he said has been “entrenched in regional warfare over nickels and dimes,” as moving closer to some consensus on policy issues.

Bob Cropp, UW-Madison professor emeritus, who has participated on USDA’s Dairy Industry Advisory Committee (DIAC) since the drowning death of Rod Nilsestuen, Wisconsin Ag Secretary, said three subcommittees will issue reports at the group’s next meeting, September 23-24. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will make preliminary policy recommendations by December 2010, with a final report due by March of 2011, in time for 2012 Farm Bill consideration.

Jerry Kozak, CEO and president of National Milk Producers Federation, detailed provisions of National Milk’s Foundation for the Future dairy policy proposal, stressing that, with escalating feed and production costs, the program was designed to protect producer income margins, not establish minimum milk prices.

Processor and producer panels offered their views of the Foundation for the Future plan and other dairy policy proposals, according to Natzke, with most agreeing that current policies are no longer effective.

Mark Stephenson, UW-Madison dairy policy specialist, described historical milk pricing patterns, noting that several economic “shocks” impacted the market in 2009. He warned forum participants not to overreact with supply management programs as a result of those shocks.  Stephenson said both the Foundation for the Future proposal and a California Milk Producers Council growth management plan would help reduce dairy market volatility, and he promised more detailed analysis in the coming weeks.

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