Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2010 10:00 AM
Survey finds little support for federal government control of milk stocks
A survey of California dairymen commissioned by Western United Dairymen indicated a majority of respondents would support supply management in their milk marketing system, but they also want it to be under their control.
"They want to see some type of supply management, but they don't want the government involved and they don't want it to be mandatory," said Michael Marsh, Western United Dairymen CEO.
The survey, conducted by MarketSense Inc., asked several questions, including how much dairymen knew about the supply-management plans being proposed in Congress and elsewhere and whether they supported them.
Of Western United's 1,000 members, 200 responded, Marsh said.
Of the bills introduced in Congress by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., more respondents oppose them than support them. The bills would set the amount of milk to be produced quarterly and penalize farmers who produce too much.
Opposition also outweighed support for a milk-pricing bill by Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa. The bill would require that milk produced in the U.S. be priced using a national average cost of production.
Respondents were split on whether they support National Milk Producers Federation's Foundation for the Future. The proposal would revise existing federal support programs, create a new margin protection program, reform the federal milk marketing order system and establish a dairy market stabilization program.
"It was very illuminating to see that the super majority, 86 percent, supported not having the government involved in supply management. I think that's reflective of 'the government sticking it to them all the time,'" he said.
The low level of understanding of the different bills stands out.
Part of that could be that the plans are too complicated, but most of it is confusion over some of the legislation, Marsh said.
The survey also showed the majority of respondents, 78 percent, kept their milk production the same or increased it up to 10 percent in the past five years.
Ninety percent said they planned no change or to increase production up to 10 percent in the next five years, with 61 percent saying they planned to increase production 5 to 10 percent.
Western United is a trade association with no ability to implement a supply-management program. The survey will provide a baseline for the organization as it formulates policy positions, Marsh said.
In other issues, the majority of respondents supported changing the allowable somatic cell count from 750,000 to 400,000, which would be in compliance with the EU standard. That could also have an impact on milk supply, Marsh said.
The majority also supported increasing nutritional standards in milk to enhance the demand for solids. When removing fat from milk, California bottlers must replace it with solids, which results in one-third more protein and calcium than what is required in federal marketing orders.