LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — – Wisconsin dairy farmers facing difficult dairy market conditions will get relief from a new U.S. Senate budget agreement.
By: Jordan Fremstad
Source: WKBT News8000
The agreement includes more than $1 billion to help dairy farmers across the country.
The focus of the agreement is on the Margin Protection Program which is insurance to help farmers deal with unexpected drops in prices.
Today, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who helped secure the funding, met with local farmers in La Crosse to hear their concerns.
Since 2014, dairy farm prices have dropped by over one-third, making life hard for Wisconsin dairy farmers.
“We have outgrown demand domestically,” said Kevin Walleser, a De Soto dairy farmer.
Baldwin, however, has secured a $1 billion investment and improvements for the Margin Protection Program.
“We will be able to make it more farmer-friendly,” Baldwin said.
The new budget agreement aims to fix issues with the old MPP by reducing premiums by up to 80 percent for medium- and small-size farms. It waives fees for new, veteran, and underserved farmers, and creates opportunities for new insurance tools.
Baldwin said the 2014 MPP didn’t give farmers the support that was needed.
“It didn’t do the job of risk management that they hoped it would, in part because of the way the formula worked,” Baldwin said.
At today’s meeting, local farmers also had the opportunity to express their concerns to Baldwin ahead of Congress passing the 2018 U.S. farm bill. Farmers from surrounding counties talked about pricing and transportation issues.
Walleser said immigration reform needs to be addressed to fix labor problems.
“We need to get immigration fixed so there is a reasonable number of people to do the jobs, not only on the farms but in the manufacturing facilities,” Walleser said.
Senator Baldwin said product labeling issues, such as when the word “milk” can be used on products that include no natural milk, are also an issue in the dairy market.
“Milk is not just a product but it is a legal term,” Baldwin said.
Walleser said plant-based milk companies should not be able to put milk on their labels.
“Webster has a clear definition of where milk comes from and it’s not a plant,” Walleser said.
Walleser said the key to a better market is education.
“We have to tell our story and tell the truth about our product, that we do produce a good, wholesome product that is good for you,” Walleser said.