President Donald Trump announced he'll back a move to reopen the government for three weeks, going along with a continuing resolution that funds government agencies and programs through Feb. 15. Both the Senate and House were expected to approve the continuing resolution by Friday evening, Jan. 25. The package includes seven temporary funding bills, including money for the USDA, as well as back pay for furloughed federal employees.
“President Trump’s announcement of the reopening of the federal government is welcome news, as it will bring thousands of our employees back to work and return us to our mission of providing our customers with the services they rely upon,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Meanwhile, we will prepare for a smooth re-establishment of USDA functions.
The head of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) sent a letter to Perdue urging quick implementation of the law’s dairy provisions.
“Dairy farmers have just completed a fourth consecutive year of depressed milk prices and are facing an uncertain outlook for 2019,” wrote Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “We believe that the significant dairy policy reforms we worked successfully with Congress to enact in the new farm bill will be critically important to helping farmers better manage difficult periods of low margins.”
The new farm bill includes several critical provisions important to dairy. Implementation of the law, passed in December, has been slowed by the recent shutdown. Dairy programs should be fast-tracked because of the nature of farm bill reforms, Mulhern said.
The new Dairy Margin Coverage program (DMC) offers much more affordable and higher margin insurance coverage levels than previous initiatives, with all dairy producers able to insure margins up to $9.50 per hundredweight on their Tier I (first 5 million pounds) production history. The DMC also offers lower-cost $5 margin coverage: a higher level of affordable catastrophic protection for operations wishing to cover more than 5 million pounds of production.
Mulhern said NMPF staff will work with the USDA on a farmer-friendly sign-up process that gives producers time to understand their options, with quickly updated online tools to streamline the process.
“Because the dairy provisions of the law simply modify the pre-existing margin program, it is clear from Congress’ direction that USDA can move forward to enact the new provisions without conducting a formal rule-making process,” Mulhern wrote. “We encourage you to utilize this flexibility to help add momentum to the process, especially in light of the fact that the government shutdown has delayed the department’s ability to proceed.”
“The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill provided much-needed certainty during these challenging times for U.S. dairy farmers, and the shutdown of the government halted any progress on putting the new farm bill into motion,” said Jeff Lyon, general manager of FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. “Our efforts on reforming the dairy title will prove to be valuable for many dairy farmers – but the USDA needs to make these same dairy programs a priority and available soon.”
“Low margins have been affecting dairy farmers for more than four years now, and for the Dairy Margin Coverage program to be effective, FSA offices need to be open, and dairy farmers need the ability to sign up for the program,” said John Rettler, president of the Midwest-based dairy co-op.
- Progressive Dairyman
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