NMPF Heralds New Dairy Donation Program to Fight Food Insecurity

NMPF lauded USDA for finalizing rules implementing the new Dairy Donation Program, which set implementation into motion in September. The program will help expand partnerships between dairy organizations and food banks to provide a wide range of dairy products to food-insecure households.

The Dairy Donation Program, enacted by Congress last December as part of COVID pandemic-related legislation, builds on the original Milk Donation Reimbursement Program. It has one-time funding of $400 million to reimburse farmers, cooperatives, and other dairy organizations for the full cost of raw milk needed to make finished dairy products for consumers. Following its enactment, NMPF worked closely with USDA to ensure that the program addresses additional costs, such as processing and transportation, to make the new program more viable. The provision covering the cost of processing is a significant enhancement from the previous program.

“We thank USDA leadership for their work to bring the Dairy Donation Program to fruition. This important program will help dairy farmers and the cooperatives they own to do what they do best: feed families nationwide,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “Dairy stakeholders are eager to enhance their partnerships with food banks and other distributors to provide dairy products to those experiencing food insecurity, which the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated.”

NMPF championed the proposal throughout the legislative process and worked closely with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who led the effort to include this new program in COVID-19-related legislation enacted last year. Mulhern said NMPF appreciates Chairwoman Stabenow’s leadership in securing the program’s enactment and lauded the support for dairy donation offered by other key members, including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA).

NMPF also worked closely with Feeding America to support the program and recommend approaches to ensure its effectiveness. NMPF hosted a webinar on September 16 with Feeding America and USDA to educate dairy stakeholders about the program.

“We have also been pleased to work with Feeding America to advance the partnership approach taken by this program as it will help to target dairy donations in a manner that effectively meets on-the-ground demand,” Mulhern said.

NMPF Joins Agricultural Leaders in Urging Farmers and Rural Communities to Get Vaccinated

NMPF and several of its member cooperatives are among the more than 30 state and national agricultural organizations representing farm, commodity and agribusiness communities that have joined together to promote vaccination among farmers and other rural Americans, sending an open letter to association members to add another voice to the call to get vaccinated.

“With a presence in all 50 states, dairy farmers know well the impacts vaccinations have on communities and how important it is for businesses and the economy to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “We’re proud of dairy’s leadership in the agricultural community on this crucial issue and pledge to do what we can to help make our communities safe.”

NMPF Chairman Randy Mooney, along with Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, co-bylined an editorial published in the Des Moines Register last week to share a message about the important connection between agriculture, science, and health.

“The key to defeating coronavirus, like it was for polio, measles, and other diseases that left their mark across the countryside, is the vaccine,” the two wrote. “Success will only be achieved one decision — and one person — at a time.”

The effort is in response to the continued challenge of the COVID-19 Delta variant cases increasing precipitously among the unvaccinated populations across the country. Many rural communities have been hit hard by the Delta variant, which has stressed healthcare systems and threatens to greatly impact those we depend on for a safe food system. Agricultural leaders in the letter are asking farmers to protect their health and their communities by getting vaccinated saying, “Farmers make science-based decisions every day to protect their farms and their communities – they should make these same decisions to protect their health as well.”

Dairy’s Challenges are Wide-Ranging. So Are We.

While Washington’s wheels turn – slowly – the day-to-day realities of farming are making 2021 another challenging year for dairy nationwide.

The western U.S. is in its worst drought in two decades. The milk-price outlook is cloudy, but higher feed costs are a reality, squeezing margins and balance sheets. The economic recovery tied to the U.S. emergence from the coronavirus pandemic carries with it uncertainties not typical to an upturn, with questions about how consumers will react to the reopening. And all expectations are tempered by the possibility of a virus resurgence, be it through a variant or insufficient vaccination worldwide.

The National Milk Producers Federation has existed since 1916 to improve dairy farmers’ lives by working for better federal policy, and that remains central to our mission today. But as the only national organization that takes the most comprehensive approach to serving dairy farmers’ policy needs, our efforts reach far beyond the Beltway, helping farmers adapt and address the challenges they face.

That’s why we provide leading economic analysis through our Dairy Market Report, helping to explain market trends and encourage effective risk management. It’s why we administer the FARM Program, enabling continuous improvement in areas from animal welfare to biosecurity. It’s also why we’re always looking for new ways to serve our members and meet them where they are – on farms and in the marketplace – so we can better connect policy priorities in meaningful ways with the farmers whose hard work inspires our own.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, we’ve been working to assist producers and help them weather the market disruptions. Our efforts have brought more than $6 billion in federal support to dairy farmers across the country. We’ve also been adapting and expanding our web resources to meet evolving farmer needs. Our coronavirus webpage continues to be a go-to resource for business management during the pandemic, with updates recently focused on dairy’s leadership in nationwide vaccination efforts. Last summer we also created a page dedicated to natural disasters including drought and wildfires, which are an unfortunate likelihood as this summer progresses. Working in tandem with FARM and our members, we strive to be useful in helping farmers meet whatever they face, providing information and guidance that serve them.

Resources that assist farmers meet immediate challenges, be it on webpages or our frequent online “toolboxes” on emerging issues that we sent to members, also help us in our policy work by keeping our own priorities tied to the most pressing needs. That’s been true throughout coronavirus, when massive supply chain disruptions required both understanding and action, and it’s true for other fast-changing situations such as natural disasters. As the summer progresses and needs develop, farmers and industry professionals shouldn’t hesitate to contact us at info@nmpf.org with whatever observations or questions that might be helpful in getting through another challenging time.

Both long-and short-term efforts matter. In Washington, we’ve seen recent progress in some years-long policy fights. The passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in March brings the only House-approved piece of agriculture labor legislation since 1986 closer to reality. Senate approval of the Growing Climate Solutions Act last month promises to add key pieces to the puzzle of how to move our industry toward its commitment to be net-zero in carbon emissions by 2050.

But for more immediate needs, we need regular communication with cooperatives and their farmer-members, and that comes from continued relevance to what those members are going through each day.

It’s going to be another long, hot summer – but when it comes to seeking solutions, we pledge to never come up dry. That’s important as we serve our mission to craft better policy but not be bounded by the Washington Beltway. Today’s challenges are defined by the local weather forecast as much as they are by national headlines. We’re right there with you.

FAQ: COVID-19 Vaccinations and Dairy’s Safe Return to “Normal”

Dairy farms and their cooperatives are an important part of the National Vaccine Month of Action, a push to ensure that 70 percent of U.S. adults have at least one shot by July 4. COVID-19 vaccinations provide safe and effective protection from a pandemic that has taken the lives of nearly 600,000 Americans. See below for information about the vaccine, its availability and what to expect after you and your workforce are fully vaccinated.

Why should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

  • COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective at preventing COVID-19. Based on what CDC knows about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine also helps keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. The development of the COVID-19 vaccines did not cut corners on testing for safety and efficacy. The vaccines were made using processes that have been developed and tested over many years, and which are designed to make — and thoroughly test — vaccines quickly in case of an infectious disease pandemic like COVID-19.
  • Once you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing more. After you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing some things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic.
  • Time is of the essence. Waiting too long to be vaccinated allows the coronavirus to continue spreading in the community, with new variants emerging. Severe COVID-19 can be very dangerous: The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you are protected.

How do I find a COVID-19 vaccine?

Visit Vaccines.gov to find vaccination providers near you. You can also text your zip code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find vaccine locations near you.

What safety measures are recommended once you have been fully vaccinated?

Authorized vaccines are highly effective at protecting vaccinated people against symptomatic and severe COVID-19. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state and local rules, and regulations.

Employees should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if they have been around someone who is sick. Employees with symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested and stay home and away from others.

How can I help my workforce get vaccinated?

Employers can help employees who seek vaccination by removing barriers that may prevent them from doing so. They can also encourage vaccination by offering incentives. Ways to support employees include:

  • Leading by example.
  • Helping to identify when and where workers can get vaccinated.
  • Offering internet access or language support services to help employees schedule appointments.
  • Relieving concerns about vaccine costs
  • Providing paid time off to employees who get vaccinated.
  • Providing transportation to and from vaccine appointments.
  • Partnering with a local public health department or other providers to offer on-site vaccinations to employees.
  • Considering providing small prizes, rewards or other modest financial incentives to employees who get vaccinated.

What measures should employers take once employees are vaccinated?

Fully vaccinated employees may be able to start doing some things they had stopped doing because of the pandemic. However, vaccinated employees may still need to take steps to protect themselves and others in many situations due to the presence of others who are non-vaccinated and the continued circulation of the virus. Employers should continue to follow CDC’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to COVID-19.

Can my business require proof of COVID-19 vaccination?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has indicated in recent guidance that it is generally permissible for employers to ask employees about COVID-19 vaccination status. That’s because this simple question alone is not likely to elicit information from the employee about possible medical conditions, an inquiry that otherwise would invoke federal or state disability laws.

If you require proof of vaccination, you should ask the employee to provide documentation from the immunization source showing the date(s) the vaccine was administered. To avoid potential legal issues related to this process, you should affirmatively inform employees that they do not need to provide any additional medical or family history information.

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