My most recent post was about the series of three congressional hearings that the House of Representatives has had on the dairy crisis. Now, another leather sole has dropped this week on Capitol Hill, in the form of the Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus being revived.
This development is yet more evidence that, despite periodic proclamations to the contrary, they “get it” in Congress; elected officials understand the pain in dairy country, and want to do something to help. They may not understand dairy pricing (few do), and they may not fully understand the depth of the crisis and how various policies either help or hurt, but the reformation of the caucus, after a three-year hiatus, is a sign of the times, and a positive one at that.
The news conference today announcing the caucus featured liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, congresspersons from New York to California, and even a few that don’t have farms in their district, but are concerned about the dairy crisis. The group is at 50 members, and will grow in the coming weeks. One speaker said it well: right now, everyone seems to be profiting from dairy farming, except farmers themselves. And everyone benefits from a healthy dairy industry, which is certainly what we don’t have today.
Now, the fact is that both Congress and the USDA have few magic wands in their arsenal to waive and make the recession disappear. NMPF has been vocal in asking Congress to weigh in with USDA on steps the agency should take. The list includes boosting the price support program, and fully utilizing the Dairy Export Incentive Program. Some of these (and other) potential policy actions have budget implications for both USDA and Congress, so as is always the case these days, price tags become an issue.
The most important long-term takeaway from the Dairy Farmer Caucus will be for producer organizations to channel their interests and concerns to a significant portion of the House, and Senate. It shouldn’t take a crisis to make this group active or relevant, but if anything good does come from the financial crunch, this may be one example.