The U.S. Senate voted last Tuesday in favor of an amendment offered by Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) that added $350 million to the overall funding for programs under the Farm Service Agency. During floor debate, Sanders explained that the funds were to be used for additional purchases under the Dairy Products Price Support Program. Within days, IDFA sent a letter urging the senators to "find better ways to help dairy farmers than to use government spending to increase dairy prices that will ultimately be paid by U.S. consumers."
The amendment, which was co-sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), proposes to increase USDA purchases of nonfat dry milk and cheese. After a budget point of order was waived, by a vote of 60-37, the amendment was added by voice vote to the Senate version of the FY 2010 agriculture appropriations bill.
IDFA believes that additional government purchases of commodities will have a number of negative consequences. In the letter to senators, IDFA President and CEO Connie Tipton warned that the proposal is likely to prolong low prices and encourage more milk production when the nation already has too much milk.
These purchases, she added, would result in higher costs for USDA food and nutrition programs, increase the cost of dairy products to consumers and discourage the industry from seeking long-term policy solutions to milk pricing. Read IDFA's news release here. Members may access the letter to senators here.
After adding the Sanders Amendment, the Senate completed action on its version of the agriculture appropriations bill, which also includes significant funding increases for federal school lunches and the Food and Drug Administration.
The Senate bill is similar to a $123.8 billion measure that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last month, although the House bill does not contain a provision like the Sanders amendment. The houses are expected to meet after the August recess to resolve any differences in their two versions of the bill, including the funding provided by the Sanders amendment.
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