Milk

Several provisions of the coronavirus relief bill will aid dairy farmers.

The $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last week offers provisions — two in particular — that will benefit dairy farmers.

One is the $9.5 billion given to USDA to prevent, prepare for and respond to the impact of coronavirus on producers, Paul Bleiberg, National Milk Producers Federation vice president of government relations, said in a podcast Thursday.

“What’s beneficial for us is that dairy is specifically called out among the list of sectors in this fund,” he said.

No specific amount is specified for dairy in that funding. Once it’s enacted into law, NMPF can work with USDA and Congress to figure out the right priority uses of the funding to deal with some of the economic challenges impacting dairy producers, he said.

The $9.5 billion is for livestock, including dairy, specialty crops and local food producers.

“So that just could improve the odds of, you know, funding that’s needed going toward the areas that are listed there,” he said.

The second provision is the $14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation. USDA has the ability to do a lot of things for agriculture — such as product purchases and trade promotion — with CCC funding, he said.

That replenishment funding is not as specific as the $9.5 billion and in theory can cover all commodities, he said.

Congress and USDA have already taken some steps to help dairy on the nutrition assistance front, he said.

Congress has approved additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other nutrition programs. USDA has taken steps to give students access to food even though schools are closed, he said.

School meals are still being made available, and dairy is included in those. USDA has also added shelf-stable milk to nutrition programs, he said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has also announced a waiver of hours of service limits for truckers moving emergency goods and precursor materials, which includes milk, he said.

“This is very important to us because if we have a driver shortage that relates to this situation, that means the drivers we do have will have to move product farther, potentially,” he said.

That flexibility will also be beneficial if milk has to be diverted due to plant closures or disruptions, he said.

Last week, NMPF sent a letter to USDA seeking government purchases of dairy products, reopening of sign-ups for the Dairy Margin Coverage program and a milk disposal program to compensate producers and processing plants for having to dispose of milk if demand goes down.

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