National Milk Still Months Away From Milk Pricing System Changes

October 1, 2009 07:00 PM

By Catherine Merlo

Many things "are on the table” as National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) looks closely at ways to change the nation's milk pricing system, spokesman Chris Galen says.

NMPF's four-part approach to make "sweeping changes,” announced Sept. 21, is being studied by a 24-member Strategic Planning Task Force and its various subcommittees. It won't be until NMPF's annual meeting in mid-November that there will be much to report, says Galen.

He emphasized that each of the four features seeks a long-term solution that requires comprehensive study. "They're not going to happen in the next three months,” he says. "You can't turn a battleship on a dime.”

Among the four features, NMPF is addressing the need to improve participation in the producer self-help program, Cooperatives Working Together, while allowing it to better address periodic imbalances in the milk supply. Discussions are ongoing about whether or not to make the program mandatory, Galen says. But if CWT were to become compulsory, that would involve "the double-edged sword of government involvement,” he added.

NMPF is also looking at creating a new dairy producer income insurance program. Galen says NMPF was studying the Livestock Gross Margin and how a similar program might be implemented.

The organization is also contemplating whether "to mend or end” the Federal Milk Marketing Order. "There's not a clear consensus,” he says.

Galen reiterates that NMPF has worked to bring about short-term solutions this year to boost farm-level income. The organization has successfully sought several solutions from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Galen says. Those include liquidating 200 million pounds of surplus milk powder, reauthorizing the Dairy Export Incentive Program, and expediting the payments under the Milk Income Loss Contract program.

NMPF also announced today its fourth CWT herd retirement program within 12 months.

Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at

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