Jim Dickrell is the editor of Dairy Today and is based in Monticello, Minn.
Vilsack Favors Dairy Supply Management
Oct 03, 2012
United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack feels your pain. He’s as frustrated with the lack of progress on the 2012 Farm Bill as any dairy producer in the country, placing the blame (not surprisingly) squarely on the shoulders of House Republican leadership.
In a town hall meeting here at World Dairy Expo yesterday, Vilsack spent nearly two hours dissecting the Farm Bill, a petition to increase Federal Order prices and a host of other topics.
He offered no real surprises, but the roomful of mostly ag media was able to ferret out a few answers that we, at least, had not heard before.
Example 1: I asked the Secretary whether the Obama Administration would accept the dairy portion of the Farm Bill if it contained the Goodlatte amendment. The amendment would reduce that amount of milk that would be covered by margin insurance (80% versus 90%). In return, the amendment would not require producers to cut back their production or forfeit a portion of their milk checks if milk/feed margins fell below $4/cwt.)
"There is not as much support of that amendment as there might appear," Vilsack responded. "Collin Peterson (Dem., Minn., ranking minority member of the House agriculture committee and chief advocate of the Dairy Security Act) would not look favorably on that amendment."
Left unsaid was whether Vilsack’s belief that there was less support for the Goodlatte amendment was in Congress or in the dairy industry. The National Milk Producers Federation is clearly opposed. But the processors, through the International Dairy Foods Association, have been lobbying hard for Goodlatte. The Wisconsin Dairy Business Association (made up of mostly large commercial dairies) and the Minnesota Milk Producers Association (many of whose members are Collin Peterson constituents) have long argued long for the Goodlatte amendment or a reasonable facsimile.
But Vilsack also argued that without some market stabilization component to the dairy program, government costs could escalate out of control. So he went on to speak in favor of some type of supply management. "Every time we get good prices, we see increased production. And that just creates greater stocks of dairy products on the supply side," he says.
The take-away I took from the discussion is that Goodlatte supporters need to continue to press their representatives in both the House and the Senate on its merits. House Speaker John Boehner (Rep., Ohio) has drawn a line in the sand that supply management will not be part of the House Farm Bill. So either he—or President Obama—will eventually have to bend on the issue.
You can read more on the Goodlatte amendment here.
Example 2. Vilsack also responded to his dismissal of a petition to increase Federal Order prices. Some 1,000 dairy producers had signed the petition over the last month or two. Vilsack says USDA must follow a highly technical process when granted a request for a Federal Order hearing. The petitioners must state what the problem is and then offer specific suggestions within Federal Order language on how to fix it. "The petitions don’t rise to the technical level that is needed for me to act," Vilsack says.
You can view more on AgDay’s coverage of Vilsack’s town meeting here.