The farm bill is the cornerstone of U.S. farm and food policy in the United States. Its provisions touch every aspect of American life, from supporting farmers and feeding families to encouraging soil, water and air quality and boosting agricultural exports. For dairy producers, the farm bill’s commodities title provides a critical safety net via the Dairy Margin Coverage program, as well as a range of other risk management tools including the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy and Dairy Revenue Protection programs. The bill’s conservation, trade and nutrition titles are also relevant to America’s dairy farmers.
The bipartisan, multiyear legislation is typically renewed every five years. The most recent Farm Bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, expired in 2023 but was extended through Sept. 30, 2024. NMPF continues to play a crucial role in farm bill discussions, ensuring the interests of dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own are effectively communicated and considered in the bill.
NMPF supports an on-time farm bill that provides dairy farmers the certainty they need as they manage their risks and resources while seeking market opportunities at home and abroad. NMPF’s board of directors in June 2023 unanimously approved comprehensive farm bill recommendations, which include:
In the Commodities title: NMPF seeks to maintain the Dairy Margin Coverage safety net and provide producers with access to a range of risk management tools, including the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy and Dairy Revenue Protection programs. NMPF also supports updating DMC’s production history calculation to better reflect current on-farm production data. America’s dairy farmers are seeking farm bill language to direct USDA to conduct mandatory plant cost studies every two years to provide better data to inform future make allowance reviews and to restore the previous “higher of” Class I mover to restore the orderly marketing of milk.
In the Conservation title: NMPF supports policies that better position the dairy industry to meet its voluntary, producer-led goal of becoming greenhouse gas neutral or better by 2050. This includes robust funding for voluntary conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that supports dairy farmers in their ongoing land and water resource management efforts, with additional emphasis on feed and manure management both of which are major areas of opportunity in sustainability. NMPF’s board of directors also seeks relief from program payment limitations that prevent the family farmers that produce most of the nation’s milk supply from fully using these programs.
In the Trade title: NMPF supports policies recognizing the growing importance of trade for U.S. dairy, with exports accounting for one-sixth of all U.S. milk production, a share expected to grow. NMPF’s board voted to support enhancing funding for trade promotion programs like the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program. NMPF also supports language to protect common food names, as embodied in the bipartisan SAVE Act introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill would establish an official list of common food and beverage names and direct USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative to prioritize this issue in international trade negotiations.
In the Nutrition title: NMPF supports policies that reflect dairy’s role as an excellent source of 13 essential nutrients, some of which are under-consumed, according to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is vital to linking the food we produce as farmers to families across the country facing difficult circumstances. NMPF’s board voted to support the enhancement of federal nutrition programs to provide nutritious dairy products to beneficiaries. NMPF also supports the bipartisan Dairy Nutrition Incentives Program Act introduced in the House and Senate to encourage SNAP participants to choose healthful dairy products at the grocery store.
- NMPF urges Congress to complete a bill that continues high-priority dairy programs. A new law will provide dairy producers with the certainty they need as they manage their risk and resources while seeking market opportunities at home and abroad.
- The current suite of dairy programs is a vast improvement over previous programs. The Dairy Margin Coverage program has performed as a strong safety net for dairy farmers during difficult times. It offers producers affordable coverage for margin levels that reflect the milk price and feed cost challenges they face. In addition, dairy farmers of all sizes now have access to public and private crop insurance tools such as Dairy Revenue Protection and Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy. These programs give all farmers the ability to adapt their risk management to their needs.
- NMPF supports a reversion back to the “higher-of” in the Class I mover. The current Class I mover carries an asymmetric risk favoring processors over farmers, compared to the previous “higher of” calculation. Dairy farmers currently are exposed to unlimited risk on the downside, while benefits to dairy farmers are limited on the upside.
- To ensure manufacturing allowances are reviewed based on updated data, NMPF supports legislation requiring USDA to conduct regular, mandatory and auditable processing plant cost studies every two years and to report the results. This would provide information necessary for the industry to consider requesting a hearing to update federal order formula make allowances and yield factors based on more accurate and timely data.
- Dairy producers are long-time environmental stewards who tend with great care to their land, water, and other natural resources. Research shows that producing a gallon of milk in 2017 required 30% less water, 21% less land, had a 19% smaller carbon footprint, and produced 20% less manure than it did in 2007. Still, more can be done, and as a result, the dairy industry has set industry-wide goals of becoming greenhouse gas neutral or better, improving water quality, and optimizing water use by 2050. Conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program are key as dairy farmers work to continue their ongoing sustainability efforts, which include new approaches to both feed and manure management.
- Once a miniscule source of sales, exports now account for approximately 18% of dairy production and are likely to comprise an even greater share as global dairy demand continues to grow. Trade promotion programs including the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program promote American-made dairy and agriculture products that compete with heavily subsidized foreign products, returning well over $20 in export revenue for every dollar invested in the programs.
- Dairy farmers appreciate the enduring connection between agriculture and nutrition. Dairy is a nutrition powerhouse, serving as an excellent source of 13 essential nutrients, but it continues to be under-consumed, according to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is vital to linking the food we produce as farmers to families across the country facing difficult circumstances.