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Dairy Policy Reform Advances through Congress as House Prepares to Take up Farm Bill

July 10, 2012

Now that the Senate has approved its version of the 2012 Farm Bill, the focus has shifted this week to the House of Representatives, where the Agriculture Committee is poised to begin drafting its own version of the Farm Bill.

Final passage in the Senate came on June 21st, when the 2012 Farm Bill was passed by a vote of 64 to 35. The legislation included $23 billion in cuts spread out among the commodity, nutrition, and conservation titles. The reforms that NMPF developed in coordination with farmers from around the country were also included in the legislation.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, work continues on a draft Farm Bill that is scheduled to be considered on July 11th by the House Agriculture Committee. The draft contains the major elements of the Dairy Security Act (DSA), which evolved from Foundation for the Future. The core of the DSA is a margin insurance program that protects farmers from dire economic conditions caused by either low milk prices or high feed costs. The margin insurance program replaces existing dairy programs, including the MILC and Dairy Product Price Support programs. Farmers will have the option of signing up for the margin insurance program; if they choose to do so, they will then be enrolled in the Market Stabilization program through which they may be asked to periodically alter their milk output when worst-case conditions appear.

The legislation differs from the Senate version, with additional cuts to federal hunger and nutrition programs, and a significantly different commodity title. NMPF also expects that an amendment will be offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a former committee chairman, to strip out the Dairy Market Stabilization Program. It is vital that this amendment be defeated, and that both the Dairy Market Stabilization Program and the Dairy Margin Insurance Program be included in any final product approved by the Committee.