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Vilsack Explains USDA Actions to Help Dairy Farmers as NMPF Works on MPP Changes

October 6, 2016

The economic challenges facing America’s dairy farmers – and what more can be done to help farmers in the future – were among the main topics of discussion last month at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the state of the farm economy.

At the hearing on Sept. 21, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked a variety of questions about the steps USDA has taken to help dairy producers as they deal with a second year of depressed milk prices. In addition to explaining USDA’s recent cheese purchase, Vilsack cited the actions USDA has taken to make NMPF-recommended improvements to the Margin Protection Program (MPP). These improvements include extending the annual sign-up periods, conducting farmer education initiatives and adjusting the program’s coverage levels to ensure producers get the maximum coverage during catastrophic periods while enabling them to choose their protection level between $4-$8.

Vilsack was also asked about MPP’s feed-cost adjustor, which he indicated would need to be addressed by Congress. That same message was delivered to the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year, when NMPF Chairman Randy Mooney testified before the House Committee on Agriculture and asked lawmakers to revisit the reduction in the MPP feed calculation in the 2014 farm bill. If the original feed adjuster NMPF proposed were to be reinstated, the program would better reflect actual producer feed costs and provide more effective coverage. Also in his testimony, Mooney strongly stated that MPP is the right program for dairy’s future and that NMPF would continue to work with both Congress and USDA to ensure that the program better meets its intended goals.