Pennsylvania’s Man in the Middle

October 14, 2009 07:00 PM
Russell Redding, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Agriculture-in-waiting (officially the "acting” Secretary pending confirmation) is a man in the middle of a potentially nasty state dairy policy fight.
On the one hand, a strident, populist group of dairy farmers and their supporters are pushing the Specter-Casey dairy bill, which would guarantee cost-of-production milk prices for manufacturing milk and even higher prices for fluid.
On the other hand, Pennsylvania's Professional Dairy Managers are calling for nearly a complete government pull-out of government in dairy policy. They are urging USDA to stop Commodity Credit Corporation purchases of surplus dairy products to bolster prices.
And that leaves Redding, a former dairy farmer himself, smack dab in the middle. He visited with Dairy Today this afternoon as he cruised along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in route to yet another meeting.
These opposing proposals put the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) in a difficult spot, he says. "We're probably somewhere in between these two positions. We see the need for Federal Order Reform, and better transparency in dairy pricing. But we don't see much traction for cost-of-production pricing.”
What PDA and the acting Secretary are pushing is an insurance program that would offer margin protection to dairy producers, such as Livestock Gross Margin insurance. All agree LGM-Dairy is complex and needs simplification. But even more important, LGM-Dairy needs subsidization to encourage dairy producers to try it.
Redding has had discussions with members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation about such a plan. "We think we could get a product developed that would work for dairy farmers from coast to coast, and get it implemented without a lot of controversy,” he says. "The more we can have the product look and act like current crop insurance products, the better chance we'll have that producers will use it.
"It's the right time to do this. Congress, I think, would be receptive,” he says.

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