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Hoard's Dairyman:

Farm Bill Frameworks Share Common Ground

May 20, 2024

By Paul Bleiberg

Executive Vice President, Government Relations, National Milk Producers Federation

After two years of hearings, listening sessions, and discussions, members of Congress are now making 2024 Farm Bill proposals. House Agriculture Committee Chairman GT Thompson, R-PA, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, both began the month by releasing their initial farm bill framework documents and priorities.

Even a quick glance at them shows the two proposals have real differences. But they also share many similarities — and that’s especially true for dairy.

Dairy farmers continue to support the Dairy Margin Coverage program enacted in the 2018 Farm Bill. It has performed effectively for producers during challenging periods, and it’s a vast improvement over its predecessors. Both farm bill frameworks extend the program, including its discount option for those farmers who lock in coverage for five years. Just as important is an update to the program’s production history calculation to compensate producers based on more recent milk production. This is an area of common ground that builds on last year’s one-year farm bill extension.

Both proposals also have overlap in their natural resource programs, recognizing that voluntary, producer-led conservation programs are effective but oversubscribed. In that context, both committee chairs recommend using the new conservation funds enacted in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 to build baseline, ensuring these greater resources will remain available for years to come. Common ground also exists when it comes to maintaining the 50% of funding for livestock set aside with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which will allow dairy farmers to continue their ongoing sustainability work.

Looking overseas, both chambers include valuable provisions to counter harmful trade barriers by establishing a robust new process for safeguarding common food and beverage names in international markets. Both the House and Senate plans provide additional resources for animal health programs that protect farmers from animal diseases, a matter that’s gained urgency with the current U.S. H5N1 outbreak in dairy cattle. Finally, both bills continue the enduring connection between agriculture and nutrition, forgoing misguided proposals to separate the producer safety net from essential nutrition programs that are a key lifeline to families and households nationwide.

Each farm bill is unique, and so are the roads taken to complete them. But the House and Senate Agriculture Committee chairs have both taken vital first steps, and we are also pleased that Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman, R-AR, plans to release his farm bill framework in short order. These proposals all pave the way for the work that will need to be done to arrive at one bipartisan, bicameral measure that can be signed into law. Dairy stands ready, as always, to be a force for common ground to help get the job done.

This column originally appeared in Hoard’s Dairyman Intel on May 20, 2024.