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Farmers Begin DMC Signup with Extra Incentive From NMPF-Supported Feed-Cost Change

July 8, 2019

Signup for the long-awaited Dairy Margin Coverage program began June 17, including a late change to DMC feed-cost calculations that will bring dairy farmers millions of dollars in additional aid and that NMPF had been quietly advocating with the White House and USDA for months. More than 5,000 dairy farmers signed up for the program in its first 10 days, according to USDA.

The 2018 Farm Bill created the DMC program, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. The program protects dairy producers when the difference between the milk prices and feed costs (the margin) falls below a certain dollar level of coverage selected by the producer. The USDA’s decision to include the cost of high-quality alfalfa feed in the payment calculations, announced shortly before signup began, increases calculated feed costs and thus lowers margins, triggering higher payments to producers. The decision will be a boon for dairy farmers facing a fifth year of low prices.

“The DMC provides a stronger safety net for America’s dairy producers, one sorely needed as low prices, trade disturbances and chaotic weather patterns combine to create hardships,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the NMPF. “We have advocated for months that margin calculations must consider the higher feed costs dairy producers pay to properly nourish their livestock. USDA’s decision to include premium and supreme quality alfalfa feed is appropriate and is another win for dairy farmers that will provide additional, crucial aid.”

Producers may cover up to their first 5 million pounds of milk production history (equivalent to the production of a 215-cow dairy farm) at a margin of up to $9.50 per hundredweight. Payments under the program will be retroactive to January 1. Calculations already made for the first five months of the year show that producers signing up at the $9.50 level would receive payments for each month, with total payments far exceeding the already-set annual premium. All producers will be able to access this affordable coverage regardless of size, and larger producers will have access to significantly more affordable $5.00 catastrophic-type coverage.

As far back as the Farm Bill signing in December 2018, NMPF advocated for USDA to prioritize implementation of the dairy program given the prolonged distress producers have faced.  USDA heeded this call early on and members of Congress gave voice to it as well.  This spring, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) as well as Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) spearheaded bipartisan letters urging USDA to promptly finalize the DMC program in a farmer-friendly manner.

“We very much appreciate USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue sticking with the department’s pledge to make dairy a priority in Farm Bill implementation,” Mulhern said. “And we again want to express our appreciation to Congressional agriculture leaders who worked together on a bi-partisan basis to deliver these program improvements,” he said.

Dairy farmers have begun to receive letters in the mail from USDA’s Farm Service Agency to make them aware of their enrollment and coverage options under the DMC. NMPF looks forward to working closely with USDA to ensure that any remaining producer questions or concerns are addressed as the implementation process unfolds.