Representative told of tough times facing industry

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, was in his home state last week to meet with dairy producers suffering the most severe economic downturn any of them ever experienced.

As a member of the House Ag Committee, which has jurisdiction over the next farm bill, Minnick was on a fact-finding mission to find out how the federal dairy program might be restructured to assist producers.

"Dairy is the biggest agricultural industry in Idaho; it's very important we get it right in the next farm bill," he said.

He met with dozens of dairy farmers during a tour of a Caldwell dairy and in a meeting hosted by Darigold on April 9.

Dairymen told the congressman they need a level playing field so large operations can compete with small operations, saying small operations have an advantage under the current program.

"They are really interested in their being able to compete ... and a dairy program that doesn't penalize efficient producers," he said.

Dairymen want a new farm program that provides economic returns for efficient producers and access to global markets, he added.

"It's important to the future of dairymen, particularly efficient dairymen like we have in Idaho," he said.

Minnick's meeting with dairymen was in advance of a scheduled House Ag Committee hearing in Nampa on May 1.

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