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Proposed Dairy Freedom Act creates insurance program for low prices
In dairy politics; two House Agriculture Committee members introduced a bill this week that an International Dairy Foods Assoc., (IDFA) press release said “forges a bipartisan compromise approach to reforming U.S. dairy policy.” The “Dairy Freedom Act” by Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and David Scott (D-Ga.) “provides a safety net for dairy farmers that would establish a new revenue insurance program for times of low milk prices and high feed costs.” 

The plan would establish a new Dairy Producer Margin Insurance Program and repeals the Dairy Product Price Support Program, the Milk Income Loss Contract Program and the Dairy Export Incentive Program. The bill essentially mirrors the proposal offered in the last Congress by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), but does not include the controversial supply management program called the Dairy Market Stabilization Program. 

IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs Jerry Slominski, said the bill is a “true middle-ground approach as no one gets everything they want, and Congress should use it as a way to move the farm bill forward.” The proposal also received an endorsement from the Dairy Business Assoc.

National Milk (NMPF) quickly shot back; “Goodlatte and Scott’s misnamed Dairy Freedom Act is nothing more than an unacceptable attempt by dairy processors to assure themselves access to a sea of taxpayer-subsidized cheap milk,” an NMPF press release argued. “Congress rejected this approach last year, and should do so again this year. What processors claim is a compromise is nothing more than a costly ruse that will hurt farmers and taxpayers alike.”
“Because it features no mechanism to put the brakes on potential excess milk production, it offers dairy processors an over-abundant, cheap milk supply.” That, said NMPF, “will help their corporations’ bottom lines, while ensuring that farmers are underpaid for the milk they produce. Dairy processors are simply trying to have taxpayers make up the difference.”

“The market stabilization program in the Dairy Security Act that was approved last year by both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees makes our program cost-effective,” NMPF argued. “Creating an effective, voluntary participation program supported by dairy farmers from coast-to-coast most certainly is the business of the federal government. That program is the Dairy Security Act, not this dairy processor-backed Trojan horse,” NMPF concluded.

Allowable somatic cell count level to remain 
In another policy front; for the second time in two years, state public health and agriculture department officials participating in the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) turned down a proposal to reduce the maximum allowable level of somatic cell counts in milk.

At its meeting in Indianapolis this week, NCIMS voting delegates, a group of state regulators overseeing milk safety rules, considered a NMPF-sponsored proposal to reduce the maximum threshold of allowable somatic cells in milk at the farm level from the current 750,000 cells per milliliter, to 400,000, starting in 2015. The delegates narrowly rejected the proposal and “put the U.S. behind the curve when it comes to milk quality standards” according to NMPF’s Jerry Kozak. 

“Dairy farmers in the world’s major milk producing regions have made great strides in reducing somatic cell count levels,” he said. “Regulatory systems around the world have moved to incorporate these lower somatic cell count levels, and the U.S. needs to be on board with that process, not be left watching from the side of the road by the failure to update our standards. We continue to be perplexed by the inconsistency of those state regulators who voted to make it easier to import Grade A dairy products into the United States by outsourcing mandatory inspections, while at the same time rejecting efforts to facilitate the export of American dairy products,” Kozak said.

A similar somatic cell count proposal was defeated by the NCIMS in 2011. Since then, the European Union has moved ahead with a somatic cell count limit of 400,000 for dairy products being exported by the U.S. to EU member countries.

Darigold has completed construction of its new milk powder dryer at its Lynden, Wash., processing plant and should start producing product in a couple weeks. A fire destroyed the dryer in February 2012.

DairyBusiness Update (DBU) reports the new dryer measures 22 feet in diameter, is 108 feet tall, and will be able to produce 16,800 pounds of powder per hour. It will not only be able to produce condensed milk powders, such as non-fat dry milk powder and skim milk powder, but will be also be able to produce whole milk powder for domestic and export markets.  

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Lee Mielke may write to him in care of this publication.