USDA’s Dairy Industry Advisory Committee (DIAC) has voted, on split tallies, to support “growth management” (9 yes, 8 no) and adopt California’s milk solids standards for the entire country (9 yes, 7 no, 1 abstention).
The votes were taken in late December, and the committee is scheduled to meet again on Jan. 11 and 12 (after this issue goes to press) to finalize the recommendations. A final report is expected in late January or early February.
The recommendations are just that: advice to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on what direction dairy policy should take. Of the 22 recommendations proposed, 18 passed, two failed and two were tabled. Sixteen of the recommendations that passed garnered at least two-thirds “yes” votes. In fact, eight were passed unanimously.
Most of the recommendations will require congressional action. And since two of the most controversial recommendations received split votes, it’s uncertain how forceful the Obama administration will be in lobbying for these changes.
The DIAC was chartered on Jan. 13, 2010, and charged with reviewing farm milk price volatility and dairy farmer profitability and then making recomendations. The recommendations that passed with strong majorities were:
- Maintain and expand the current programs forexport market development.
- Simplify and improve risk management products for dairy farmers.
- Establish risk management lines of credit for first buyers of milk.
- Adopt a somatic cell count limit of 400,000 cells/ml within four years.
- Adopt tax-deferred farm savings accounts for dairy farmers.
- Review Federal Milk Marketing Orders for volatility, efficiency and profitability and recommend reforms.
- Consider end-product pricing.
- Support dairy descriptors for milk, cheese, yogurt and butter.
- Provide incentives for environmental practices.
- Phase out ethanol subsidies such as the blender’s credit and tariffs on imported ethanol.
- Explore eliminating dairy price supports and the Dairy Export Incentive Program and using the savings to enhance other safety net programs.
- Continue the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and grant programs.
- Support programs that enhance value-added market development.
- Collect and publish data onalternative measures of a competitive pay price.
- Modify the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program to include an all-milk income/feed cost margin trigger and provide an insurance program for larger producers who exceed the MILC production cap.
- Develop a system that will provide a more accurate assessment of dairy profitability.
The two recommendations that failed involved USDA promotion of competitive behavior in market participation and the exploration of a two-class milk pricing within the Federal Orders system.
The tabled recommendations were to require that real milk solids are used if fluid milk is fortified and to provide detailed requirements for a margin insurance program.