FMMO Hearing, Now USDA’s Longest, Drags Into 2024

When USDA’s Federal Milk Marketing Order hearing reconvenes on Jan. 16, it will set a new record for the longest hearing in USDA history. NMPF’s proposals, however, have all been examined, with dairy cooperative leadership firmly stamped on testimony and cross-examination that will likely reach more than 15,000 pages by its expected conclusion on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2.

NMPF’s December focus was finishing region-by-region discussion on its final proposal, Proposal #19 to update Class I differentials. NMPF testimony concluded with analysis supporting the full range of NMPF proposals for comprehensive modernization offered by Dr. Scott Brown of the University of Missouri. Cooperative experts also explained both the need for updated differentials and the detailed analysis behind NMPF’s plan.

The final two weeks of presentations on the final three of 22 total proposals are scheduled for Jan. 16-19 and Jan. 29-Feb. 2, more than three months later than USDA’s originally projected completion date. The dragged-out hearing, largely because of an unexpectedly contentious atmosphere encouraged by exhaustive cross-examination by processor groups, may potentially cost farmers millions of dollars due to current inequities in the current, unmodernized system. Upon its conclusion, the next stage will be to create a legal brief, a written argument of NMPF’s case presented at the hearing to USDA using testimonies, exhibits, and cross-examinations.

For all the effort expended thus far, 2024 may be the most critical year of the entire FMMO modernization process that began with NMPF examination in 2021, as co-op leadership and farmer-owners lead the way in ensuring a final, adopted USDA proposal that heavily incorporates NMPF’s unanimously adopted, farmer-led, consensus and common-sense proposal for change.