Support S1640

Published on: 17:12PM Nov 28, 2011

California dairy producer says Sen. Casey's proposed dairy policy legislation is a win-win situation for everyone.


Dear Editor:

I am a dairy farmer from Turlock, Calif. My wife, Linda, and I have operated our farm since 1968. We have been suffering the pain from low milk prices and high production costs for many years just like what the majority of dairy farmers have experienced.
Finally, there is a dairy bill that will solve what has been dairy farmers’ constant financial nightmare since 1981. The bill is the "Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act of 2011," known as S1640. The bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr., from Pennsylvania.
Let me make it very clear. My wife and I strongly support S1640. We have been working diligently here in California to get support for S1640. Contrary to what you are hearing, there are many dairy farmers on the West Coast who want to see this bill passed.
We realize that S1640 is the only bill that uses dairy farmers’ costs to establish the value of raw milk at the farm. In addition, S1640 is the only dairy proposal that contains a milk supply management program that does not depend on government subsidies! The milk supply management program does not tell dairy farmers how much milk they can produce, but there will be a penalty levied on producers who over-produce milk.
There are several more advantages to S1640. For instance, the bill addresses the imports of dairy products, allows the Federal Orders to stay intact in the event a proposed amendment to any Federal Order is defeated, allows a new dairy producer to start a new operation without being penalized, and allows the dairy farmers in each Order to determine how component prices will be used. 
However, I must say we have strong concerns regarding other dairy bills being presented, and some of the activities surrounding the other bills. For instance, the so-called "Super-Committee" that was formed by Congress has failed--and failed miserably. This committee met behind closed doors for several weeks trying to come up with budget cuts to improve the economy. What we have learned now is that the committee was listening to the deregulation policies proposed by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) that have been rolled into a new plan (Dairy Producer Protection Plan and the Dairy Market Protection Plan contained in the Dairy Security Act in the Foundation for the Future), all promoted by Rep. Collin Peterson, former chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.
This proposal is worse than what we have today, and it will finish off many family dairy farmers who have been suffering great financial difficulties over the past three years due to raw milk prices far below the cost of production. We do not need more deregulation. What dairy farmers desperately need is a new raw milk pricing formula, without any government cost, that will give family dairy farmers a fighting chance to pay their bills so that they can stay in business.
Included in the agenda items of the Peterson proposal are the following:
(1)   Elimination of the Price Support Program
(2)   Elimination of the MILC payments
(3)   Elimination of minimum pricing that currently protects all dairy farmers
(4)   Eventual elimination of the Federal Milk Marketing Orders in five years  
Some of the economists who have evaluated the Peterson proposal have determined that dairy farmers’ income will decrease from where it is today.
It appears that S1640 is being ignored by the Ag Committees as "budget saving" because they apparently either do not understand or refuse to understand how this bill will work. It is very simple, and, as my dear friend Floyd Hall would ask, "What don’t you understand about the bill?"
S1640 would divide the economic pie more evenly between all parties involved in the dairy industry beginning at the farm where the raw milk originates. This is why the bill is being ignored by those who feel threatened by any revenue shift to the dairy farmer. These people ask, "What is in S1640 for me?" They oppose any improved pay-price to the dairy farmer because they see this change as a threat to their job security, retirement, vacation pay and other benefits. The current dairy policy, along with some of the proposals now being circulated, continues to place all the risk on dairy farmers, leaving the rest of the dairy industry with none of these financial burdens.
Disturbingly, political contributions are being donated by certain entities--some of which portray themselves as representing the best interests of dairy farmers--to politicians who are seated on the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. Who are these people who are so willing to share revenue that should be going to the dairy farmers? These are the people working in the dairy industry--but not making their living by milking cows--whose policies promote processing, marketing, distribution and retail interests rather than the actual economic and agricultural policy needs of the dairy farmers themselves.
Big money talks, and, in reality, most of these funds should be going to the dairy farmers who start the process in motion by producing the raw milk in the first place. Some of this big money taken directly from dairy farmer revenue--sometimes without their knowledge--and contributed to members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees has been reported as follows:
          Dairy Farmers of America   $550,100
          Land O’Lakes                    $380,980
          California Dairies, Inc.        $294,400
(They have not supported deregulation, as in the current proposals.)
[These figures were released recently by the Center for Responsive Politics.]
In summary, S1640 will be fair to all parties involved in the dairy industry. Finally, dairy farmers will know what they will receive for their raw milk so that they can pay for the supplies and services from all their support businesses that include bankers, feed companies, equipment companies, veterinarians, nutritionists, college professors, and the list goes on. Additionally, dairy processors and dairy bottlers will know what their cost for raw milk will be. And, finally, and equally important, consumers should not see the retail price for milk and dairy products jumping all over the shelves.
The current dairy policies are out of control and need to be replaced by policies that no longer push good, efficient dairy farmers out of business for no reason except the pure greed of special interests.
Dairy farmers, we need S1640. Call your congressmen and senators and tell them to support S1640. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Loren Lopes