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Producer groups weigh in on House dairy hearing


Dairy farmers suffer financial hardship under current policies, say groups


By CAROL RYAN DUMAS


Capital Press


National Milk Producers' Federation and Dairy Farmers of America say current dairy policy is inadequate and they want Congress to consider a federation-backed reform plan.


The groups made their comments following the Sept. 8 audit hearing on federal dairy programs, held by the House Subcommittee of Livestock, Dairy and Poultry.


Congressmen questioned USDA staff on the effectiveness of current dairy policy. Many of the lawmakers cited the inadequacies of current dairy policy, as demonstrated by financial hardships experienced by producers in 2009.


"The general tone of the questions at (the) hearing from the committee members indicates a concern that current dairy programs are not up to the task of providing a meaningful farm-level safety net," National Milk's President and CEO Jerry Kozak said in a written statement.


"NMPF shares that concern, and that's what has driven the creation of Foundation for the Future. We believe we have the best answer to the bottom line question of what should come next for dairy policy."


The proposal includes subsidized margin insurance, supply management in times of very low margins and reform of federal marketing orders.


Dairy Farmers of America is urging Congress to consider Rep. Collin Peterson's draft of National Milk's proposal, stating the proposal is sound, affordable and would be instrumental in strengthening the domestic dairy industry.


"Domestic dairy programs are outdated and inflexible, stifling much needed innovation," John Wilson, DFA senior vice president, said in a press release. "They do not and cannot offer producers the tools necessary to manage global market changes or the tight margins that result from either low milk prices, high feed prices or a combination of both.


"It's evident current programs are flawed. They are insufficient in times of extreme volatility, which seems to be the norm rather than the exception, and do not provide an adequate safety net when margins are tight."


The hearing was the tenth in a series of audits by the subcommittee concerning farm programs.


No one from industry was invited to testify at the hearing, and National Milk's comments are limited to those in press releases, said Chris Galen, National Milk's senior vice president of communications.


Wilson was not available for further comment this week.



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