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NMPF Board Meets to Review Farm Bill, Animal Care Issues

June 10, 2014

NMPF’s Board of Directors met last week in Arlington, Virginia, for an update on several key issues of interest to dairy farmers and cooperatives, including the progress being made on implementing the new farm bill’s dairy safety net.

During a special dinner to celebrate the passage of the Farm Bill last Tuesday, NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern presented a plaque to Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan (pictured at left), who as Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee proved instrumental in helping shepherd the passage of the bill.
Mulhern reported to the board that the organization’s staff continue to interact with USDA officials developing the specific regulations that will govern the new Margin Protection Program established by the 2014 Farm Bill.  NMPF has been anticipating farmer questions and urging USDA to make the program as easy as possible for farmers to understand and use.  Karla Thieman, Senior advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, reported to the NMPF Board that the agency is on track to release the rules governing initial program enrollment by the end of the summer.  
NMPF is developing an online dashboard calculator that will allow farmers to estimate future margins in order to help them make choices about MPP coverage levels.  That calculator will be available once final program details are known.  NMPF will continue to make available information and tools to help cooperatives explain the new MPP to farmers.
In other developments, given the continued interest and focus from customers about dairy farm animal care, the NMPF board discussed two updates to the National Dairy FARM program that will be voted on at its next meeting in October.  
The first measure is a resolution for consideration by the board that would require all FARM program participant companies to conduct second party evaluations on their direct-ship farms. All farms would also be included in the pool for third party verification.   The resolution is being shared with NMPF’s members (and other co-ops and processors not represented by NMPF) so that each organization can review the resolution and vote on adopting it in October.  
The second measure specifies a protocol to address allegations of willful animal mistreatment on farms enrolled in the program. Willful mistreatment is a violation of existing FARM program guidelines; the new protocol establishes procedures to address such violations.   The focus of this process is to ensure a farm’s practices are consistent with the program’s guidelines – not to exclude the farm from future participation in the FARM program. This new process will help enhance the integrity of the FARM program to customers while helping farms regain full FARM program participant status by implementing the steps identified in the animal care improvement plan. 
The Board of Directors also seated a new member representing Cooperative Milk Producers Association, Inc.  Jimmy Kerr joins the board, replacing long-time member Bill Blalock, who has retired from the Board.  Kerr has been on CMPA’s board for more than 20 years, serving as Vice President of the coop for the last six.  He, his son Alex and wife Donna milk 200 registered Holstein on 600 acres in Amelia, Virginia.