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Op Ed: Let’s Do This Right!

August 8, 2011

With dairies still climbing out of the 2008-10 recession, and the political mood in Washington focused on cutting federal programs, it’s imperative to get dairy economic safety net reforms done right, says this California dairy leader.


By Michael Marsh, CEO, Western United Dairymen

During the Great Recession of 2008-2010, nearly $2 billion in federal and industry funds were spent trying to stem the tide of red ink hemorrhaging from U.S. dairy farms.


According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), total federal outlays on dairy unleashed during those three years amounted to just over $1.5 billion. Funds were expended under the Dairy Product Price Support Program, the Milk Income Loss Contract program, and the Dairy Export Incentive Program, as well as dairy donations to feeding programs around the country.


Additionally, Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), operated by National Milk Producers Federation, pumped out additional monies for herd retirements and export assistance in excess of $250 million.


Overseas, the story was little different as other nations attempted to protect their dairy farmers from the havoc. European Union intervention stocks climbed to record levels as attempts were made to reduce milk supplies entering the market. 


No one can disagree that the Great Recession was the most devastating economic calamity to strike the global dairy industry in our lifetimes. In the U.S., legacy family operations, some in business for over 100 years, closed their barns and devastated dairy families and their employees. Dairy herds were sold off for beef. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was so concerned that Congress was going to weigh in and assist in trimming the national dairy herd that the cattlemen petitioned members to allow no help for struggling dairy farmers.


Nearly $2 billion expended in the U.S. and it wasn’t enough. Billions more spent around the planet and it wasn’t enough.


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