National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson hand-delivered a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday outlining an array of ideas the department and Congress can employ to address the ongoing dairy crisis.
"The dairy crisis continues to cripple family dairy farmers and their rural communities. I hear regularly from long-time dairy producers who have never experienced such a devastating economic tidal wave," Johnson said in a press release. "While the dairy sector is not unique in its economic struggles, the severity of the dairy situation requires immediate and creative policy solutions."
Johnson applauded Vilsack's March 26, 2009 announcement to disperse 200 million pounds of nonfat dry milk (NFDM) for domestic feeding programs and to expeditiously release Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program payments as welcome news for dairy producers. Johnson added that more must be done to address the deepening crisis and ensure future viability of the dairy industry.
"The consequences of unfettered imports must become a central part of the discussion," Johnson said. "Loopholes in our trade agreements coupled with a lack of inspection enforcement at our borders have allowed a flood of imported dairy proteins to displace U.S. produced milk. This comes at a time when demand is declining and market prices are at the bottom of the barrel."
Delegates to NFU's annual convention adopted a special policy position outlining specific recommendations to sustain family dairy farmers, and in turn rural America, through this period of economic uncertainty. Delegates urged immediate implementation of the 2008 Farm Bill provisions related to the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) system, closing the MPC import loophole and immediate oversight of the dairy product pricing system, among other recommendations.
"Since taking the oath of office, Secretary Vilsack has been fully engaged and committed to America's dairy farmers," Johnson said. "Dairy farmers should be proud to have a Secretary of Agriculture that truly understands the devastating economic impact spreading throughout rural communities and commitment to taking action."