- NFU seeks dairy policy changes but not a FMMO hearing
- Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings fell in 2022
- DAIRY PRIDE Act reintroduced in House
- Checkoff program oversight bill reintroduced
- ‘PFAS relief’ proposal introduced
- House passes WOTUS disapproval resolution
- Nominees sought for USDA Ag Air Quality Task Force
NFU seeks dairy policy changes but not a FMMO hearing
National Farmers Union (NFU) delegates called for dairy policy reform but voiced opposition to a Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) hearing during the organization’s 121st annual convention, March 5-7, in San Francisco.
Among the dairy policy reform provisions approved during a special order of business, NFU delegates called for creation of a farmer-led incentive-based milk production growth plan to match milk supply with profitable market demand.
However, citing a lack of producer representation in the process, the NFU delegates opposed a national hearing on FMMO reform. In event a hearing is held, they asked for the USDA to convey added weight on positions taken by producers opposed to those held by milk processors and handlers. Additionally, if a hearing is held, the NFU supported:
- Establishing a price discovery formula at the producer level through a growth management program that incentivizes matching production with market demand
- Reforming all milk class formulas to reflect the value and volume of all dairy products sold in the market today
- Requiring mandatory participation of processors in an audited National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey and in an audited Cold Storage report
- Establishing a national make allowance that is adjustable to reflect the difference between milk prices and the producer’s cost of production; this allowance should be generated from the market, not deducted from the established price through end-product pricing.
Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings fell in 2022
With many improving working capital and equity positions in 2022, the number of U.S. farms filing for Chapter 12 bankruptcy were down substantially. Based on data from the U.S. district bankruptcy courts, Chapter 12 filings fell to 169 during the year, down 39% from a decade-low total of 276 in 2021.
The number of U.S. farms filing for Chapter 12 bankruptcy during 2021-22 was in sharp contrast to previous years, when filings hit 599 in 2019 and 560 in 2020.
Among the 24 major dairy states, Chapter 12 filings totaled 107 for the year ending Dec. 31, 2022. Among those states, filings were highest in New York (16), California (12), Georgia and Florida (each 10). The total does not necessarily mean the filings were from dairy operations.
Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings totaled six each in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Kansas and Iowa, and five in Pennsylvania and Oregon.
Chapter 12 bankruptcy does not mean the loss of the farm. Designed for family farmers with "regular annual income,” Chapter 12 bankruptcy allows financially distressed farmers to restructure financials and propose a repayment plan – usually over a three- to five-year period.
DAIRY PRIDE Act reintroduced in House
The “Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk and Cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act” (DAIRY PRIDE Act), previously reintroduced in the Senate, has also been reintroduced in the House.
The proposal would require nondairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants and algae to no longer be labeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt or cheese. It would require the FDA to issue guidance for nationwide enforcement of mislabeled imitation dairy products within 90 days of passage and require the FDA to report to Congress two years after enactment to hold the agency accountable for enforcement obligations.
The DAIRY PRIDE Act would also nullify FDA guidance that is not consistent with dairy standards of identity, including a recent proposal allowing plant-based products to continue to use dairy terms despite not containing dairy, nor having the nutritional value of dairy products. Read: FDA provides recommendation for voluntary labeling plant-based ‘milk’
FDA is accepting comments on its draft guidance until April 24.
Checkoff program oversight bill reintroduced
A bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act, a bill proponents say will add transparency to agricultural checkoff programs. The bill was previously introduced in the Senate in September 2021.
The bill establishes restrictions and requirements for agricultural commodity checkoff programs. It prohibits checkoff administrative boards from entering into a contract or agreement to carry out activities with a party that engages in activities to influence any government policy or action that relates to agriculture.
The board must meet specified requirements regarding recordkeeping and the publication of budgets and disbursements of funds.
A summary and full text of the bill are available.
‘PFAS relief’ proposal introduced
Members of the House and Senate introduced the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act. The proposal authorizes grants for states to provide financial assistance to farmers whose operations are impacted by contamination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). It expands PFAS monitoring and testing, covers remediation costs and even helps affected farmers relocate.
PFAS contamination has prevented some farms from selling their products and facing other financial hardships.
The bill would also create a USDA task force charged with identifying other USDA programs to which PFAS contamination should be added as an eligible activity.
House passes WOTUS disapproval resolution
The House of Representatives passed H.J. Resolution 27, a Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) resolution of disapproval.
The legislation was sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri) and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chair Rep. David Rouzer (R-North Carolina). It was supported by Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-Pennsylvania), chair of the House Ag Committee.
Under the terms of the Congressional Review Act, Congress can strike down a federal agency rule if a resolution of disapproval is approved by both chambers and signed by the president. That’s unlikely, given that Democrats hold both the Senate and White House.
Nominees sought for USDA Ag Air Quality Task Force
The USDA is currently seeking nominees to its Agricultural Air Quality Research Task Force, including agricultural producers, agricultural industry representatives, researchers, scientists and members of health and regulatory communities.
Established in 1996, the task force examines the intersection of agricultural production and air quality, and advises the U.S. secretary of agriculture on scientific, cost-effective, federally supported agricultural solutions that can help improve air quality.
Nominations must be emailed to Greg Zwicke or postmarked by May 5 to be considered. Click here for more information.