Congress Looks Into the Dairy Crisis

Published on: 21:56PM Jul 14, 2009

The dairy economic crisis drew the attention of the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, which held a day-long session to examine the causes of, and the possible solutions to, the burgeoning financial vise that is gripping dairy farmers.

NMPF was represented at the hearing by one of our Board Directors, Tom Wakefield, who owns a family dairy in Bedford, PA (not to be confused with Bedford Falls, the fictional place where It’s a Wonderful Life took place).  We could use some of Clarence the Angel’s magic incantations to help the situation, but no divine intervention appears on the horizon, nor does Congress appear inclined to step in at the moment.

Rather that regurgitate all of the witnesses’ testimony, I’ll just provide this hyperlink to let people see what others had to say.  I think it’s important to point out that the USDA, and Congress, are well aware of the dire dairy dilemma.  During his regional listening sessions this summer, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is hearing about it everywhere.

Some people may feel otherwise, but there is no lack of understanding in Washington about how bad the economics are.  What’s frustrating for everyone, from the White House to the milk house, is that there simply is no magic wand that Congress, the USDA or anyone can wave to suddenly make things better.  The same can be said about the larger economy, which continues to suffer, and where unemployment is growing.  Now there’s talk of another stimulus package to provide yet another economic boost.  Let’s face it, until the world economy shows definite signs of recovery, it’ll be hard to see a solid recovery of dairy prices too.

This is likely just the first of several dairy-centric hearings in the House Ag Committee.  Let’s hope the attention prompts some additional actions by USDA to fully utilize the DEIP program during the rest of the year, and bolster the price support program as NMPF requested last month. 

On a related note, I taped an interview earlier today with ABC’s World News Tonight for a story they are doing (probably to air next week) on the dairy crisis.  There’s been plenty of media attention in 2009 about the dairy situation, and more stories like this will hopefully help drive home the point that short-term policy measures in Washington can be critical to helping rectify the situation, at least to an extent.  George Bailey was able to persevere under difficult and unfair circumstances.  Let’s hope most dairy producers will be able to as well.