We’re now halfway through 2017, and this serves as a good reminder that the US Department of Agriculture is a tad late in submitting its annual report to Congress on the dairy and fluid milk promotion programs. Several years late, in fact. By: Dick Groves
The Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983, which created the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program, requires USDA to submit an annual report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on the dairy promotion program. The enabling legislation for the Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program, the Fluid Milk Promotion Act of 1990, also requires such a report.
But the most recent report posted on the website of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (which has oversight responsibility for both dairy promotion programs as well as a number of other promotion and research programs covering everything from eggs and cotton to popcorn and softwood lumber) covers 2012 program activities. That’s practically ancient history.
This raises at least three questions. First, where the heck are the more recent annual reports to Congress on the dairy and fluid milk promotion programs? Second, why should anyone care about these reports? And third, is there anybody in Congress trying to do something about these overdue reports?
Regarding that first question, well, there doesn’t appear to be an answer, just quite a bit of historical context. Back in the 1980s, for example, the annual report to Congress (which then covered just the farmer-funded National Dairy Promotion and Research Program) was supposed to be submitted to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees by July 1 of each year, and covered the National Dairy Board’s fiscal period beginning May 1 of the previous year and ending on April 30 of the current year.
So these early annual reports were pretty current; there was just a two-month lag between when the fiscal period ended and the date of the report. They were also pretty current because they would arrive in our mailbox in Madison shortly after July 1 every year.
Today? As noted earlier, the last annual report posted on the AMS website covers calendar year 2012. At a minimum, it would seem that USDA is at least three years behind on this report.
As far as the second question is concerned, there are several groups that should care about these reports. Primarily, dairy farmers and dairy importers pay an assessment to the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program, so they should certainly care about these reports, and fluid milk processors pay for that program.
And the reports include some pretty important information for those who pay for the programs, such as financial statements. They also include an annual independent analysis of the advertising and promotion programs that operate to increase sales of fluid milk and dairy products.
In the most recent report, covering 2012 program activities, Texas A&M University researchers found that the US dairy checkoff programs “have effectively increased the supply, demand, prices, and exports of dairy products. The gains in profit at the farm level were far larger than the costs of the checkoff programs.”
Interestingly, there was no real mention of the benefit to dairy importers of the dairy promotion program. The 2012 report was notable in that it covered the first full calendar year in which the dairy import assessment was in effect (importers started paying 7.5 cents per hundredweight of milk, or the equivalent thereof, on imported dairy products on August 1, 2011).
It would be interesting to see if reports covering 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 offered any insights into whether importers were actually benefitting from paying into the dairy promotion program.
Related to that, and regarding the third question posed earlier, there are at least a couple of US senators trying to do something about the dairy and other promotion and research programs.
Congress does, after all, have something at stake in all of this. It passed the legislation that launched both the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program and the Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program, and it also included in those laws the requirement that USDA submit an annual report to Congress on those two programs.
Apparently Congress in recent years has been too busy accomplishing very little to actually care about whether USDA is following the requirements of two of the laws it passed.
But in a rare bit of bipartisanship, US Sens. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, and Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, recently introduced legislation that would: require transparency through publication of checkoff program budgets and expenditures, and means for audits of compliance; clarify and fortify the prohibition on checkoff programs from contracting with organizations that lobby on agricultural policy; and establish program standards and prohibit anticompetitive behavior and engaging in activities that may involve a conflict of interest.
Frankly, the legislation would probably be adequate from a dairy industry perspective if it simply required USDA to do what the laws tell it to do: submit an annual report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on the dairy promotion programs. For a number of years, USDA did just that.
But since the last report to Congress covers 2012, maybe Congress needs to pass a new law that will force USDA to obey a couple of old laws and again start publishing annual reports every year.
Source: Cheese Reporter