By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The hope for federal dairy policy reform and a new safety net for producers took a hit when the House scuttled its version of the farm bill. But with dairy policy proposals being debated in both chambers of Congress, stand-alone dairy bills theoretically could be possible.
Don't count it, industry insiders say.
"I don't see that happening," said Jerry Slominski, senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy for International Dairy Foods Association, which represents dairy processors. Dairy policy has always been handled in the dairy title of the farm bill, he said.
While the Goodlatte-Scott amendment to the House farm bill passed overwhelmingly and the Senate-passed farm bill contained the Dairy Security Act, he doesn't see the House or Senate passing dairy policy outside a farm bill, he said.
The Dairy Security Act provides voluntary margin insurance to dairymen and a mandatory milk supply management program for those who participate in the insurance program. The Goodlatte-Scott amendment provides margin insurance without the controversial milk supply management element.
Members of the Senate tried to pass the Dairy Security Act last year when dealing with the so-called fiscal cliff, but it failed as a stand-alone bill, he said.
"Moving stand-alone dairy legislation is extremely difficult to do," said Michael Marsh, CEO of Western United Dairymen.
"It doesn't happen often and it's very difficult," he said.
The last successful stand-alone dairy legislation was the Milk Regulatory Equity Act in 2005. Prior to that was the Dairy Herd Termination program in 1985, he said.
Charlie Garrison, Washington, D.C. lobbyist for several dairy producer groups, said he hasn't heard of any plans to pursue stand-alone dairy legislation.
The general consensus is that stand-alone dairy legislation would draw so many amendments -- because of the different interest of individual legislators -- that it would be difficult for leadership to navigate through it and pass anything, he said.
National Milk Producers Federation considers it unlikely that dairy policy will be dealt with outside of the farm bill, said Chris Galen, National Milk's senior vice president of communications.
"We have to see what the next steps are in the House regarding the farm bill before talking about something speculative like that," he said.