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.