By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and David Scott, D.-Ga., have introduced the Dairy Freedom Act, calling it a compromise on dairy policy.
Like the Dairy Security Act offered by Rep Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and passed by full Senate and the House Ag Committee last year, the bill offers a margin insurance plan for dairy producers to reduce catastrophic losses. But it does so without a milk supply-management element.
Goodlatte and Scott introduced a similar bill in the House last year, but the bill was rejected.
While there's widespread agreement federal policy needs to be reformed to provide a viable safety net for producers, the Dairy Security Act's supply-management component is subject to debate.
"A supply-control program puts federal government bureaucrats in the middle of dairy decisions by manipulating dairy prices, instituting production quotas and penalizing consumers," Goodlatte and Scott said in a joint statement on Thursday.
Like Peterson's bill, the Dairy Freedom Act eliminates the Dairy Product Price Support Program, the Milk Income Loss Contract Program and the Dairy Export Incentive Program.
The features of the new bill mirror Peterson's proposal but doesn't include the highly controversial supply-management program, International Dairy Foods Association stated in a press release.
IDFA, which represents dairy processors, staunchly opposes any proposal for supply management.
"This is truly a middle-ground approach, as no one gets everything they want, and Congress should use it as a way to move the farm bill forward," said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy.
Congress reached a stalemate on the farm bill last year because of supply management, IDFA contends.
The dairy package was also rejected in the farm bill extension because it would have periodically imposed limits on milk production, raised consumer prices for dairy products and increased the cost of federal food and nutrition programs, IDFA stated.
National Milk Producers Federation, which developed Peterson's bill, said the Dairy Freedom Act is not a compromise but a ruse that will hurt farmers and taxpayers. It is a processor-back Trojan horse, which Congress rejected last year and should do again.
The bill "is nothing more than an unacceptable attempt by processors to assure a sea of taxpayer-subsidized cheap milk," National Milk said in a prepared statement.
Without a mechanism to put the brakes on potential excess milk production, the bill offers processors an over-abundant, cheap milk supply that will help their corporations' bottom lines while ensuring farmers are underpaid for their milk, National Milk stated.
Ag economists last week released an analysis of both bills, saying both would offer effective protection against catastrophic loss. They found that neither proposal is better than the other and both could potentially limit or encourage milk production growth.
The Goodlatte-Scott bill was referred to the House Ag Committee. It has no other cosponsors.