Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont recently announced that Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, is responding to the senator’s request for some financial aid for U.S. dairy farmers by making special funds available now.
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Photo by Brian Suman on Unsplash

I was surprised to learn that Jim Mulhern, who heads up the National Milk Producers Federation, raised questions regarding the level of payments that can be made to individual dairy farmers. I agree with some of Mr. Mulhern’s questions. However, I have several additional questions and points regarding this financial assistance.

Will the funds help them cover their cost of production?

Will the funds help those dairy farmers who participate in the insurance program that is available to them?

Will the funds help cover the substantial milk marketing costs that are taken out of many dairy farmers’ milk checks? Currently, the cooperatives not only charge farmers for the costs of marketing milk,  but they also refused to pay the special premium payments that were negotiated for our dairy farmers and which are charged to the consumer. Do they just pocket that premium money?

Will the funds be enough to compensate dairy farmers for reduced income that resulted from the cooperatives depooling farmers from the federal order pool during the COVID pandemic? This single action benefited the cooperatives but hurt many dairy farmers.

Will there be reimbursement to fluid-milk handlers that were also harmed through the depooling action by the cooperatives?

Will the dairy cooperatives and handlers pass the funds they receive to the dairy farmers?

Will the total value of the special funds be adequate to pay the dairy farmers the national average cost of producing milk which is $22.37 per CWT [hundredweight]?

We suggest that the maximum payment for production be raised from the first five million pounds to the first seven million pounds, to accommodate more family farms.

In summary, Annette Kuzma, a family farmer who is also a director in Pro-Ag, has the right answer. She says “Congress should pass legislation that establishes a new pricing formula that is based on the national average cost of production ($22.37) and should restore whole milk in public schools. These two actions would give all family dairy farmers a fighting chance to survive.”

THE Dairy Industry Code of Conduct has brought about a “significant culture change” within the dairy sector and helped increase competition at the farmgate, according to Australian Competition & Consumer Commission deputy chair Mick Keogh.

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