Some dairymen question if reform is a real improvement
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Idaho is the first state to sign onto National Milk Producers Federation's proposed overhaul of national dairy policy following a vote of the Idaho Dairymen's Association on March 18.
But there is some concern that Foundation for the Future will fail to solve the industries woes and will create some of its own.
"Current dairy policy is hurting us more than anything, but I don't know if this is going to do it," said Ed DeGroot, of Mountain Home.
The overhaul concentrates on maintaining producer profit margins rather than setting price. It would institute a national margin insurance program and eliminate milk income loss contracts. It provides for a supply management program when margins are low and would reform federal orders to end processors' make allowances and end-product pricing.
While the proposed new margin-insurance program could benefit Idaho dairymen, producers aren't so sure about the proposed supply management program.
"If supply management goes into effect in the U.S., are we going to be regulators for the world?" asked Don Taber, of Shoshone.
He's worried U.S. producers would bear the brunt of bringing international oversupply into balance.
Taber said he is not sure how the supply-management plan would address regional shortfalls of fluid milk. Supply management in milk-deficit areas could result in more milk being shipped in at greater expense, he said.
Others said that any reasonable proposal would be an improvement on the current system.
"Our antiquated system isn't working. Unless there's something (different) there, we'll just have the same thing," said Dirk Bowles, of Preston.
"Part of it is pretty hard to swallow," said Greg Anderson, of Idaho Falls. "But it's better than what we've got. I guess I'm a reluctant 'yes.'"
Lorne Clapson, of Kuna, said he hasn't seen a government program yet that does what it said it would.
"What happens if we do nothing and we don't vote? I think it is essential to be at the table," he said.
Several dairymen voiced the same concern, saying it was important to be involved in negotiations as early as possible.
Mike Roth, IDA president and a Jerome dairyman, said Idaho is ground zero for milk prices, which are the lowest in the nation.
"If we're happy with that, if you don't believe there's a better mousetrap out there, let's stay where we're at," he said.
After the vote, Steve Cann, of Preston, said, "It's a little early to have had a vote. We really don't know what we've voted on."
Murtaugh dairymen David Funk said that while the plan had some good provisions, he's not willing to take the bad ones in the tradeoff, he said.
"I've got all the government I want in my life," he said.
The board's motion to adopt Foundation for the Future as IDA policy was passed 121-26. Congress must authorize any change in federal dairy policy.