The U.S. House Agriculture Committee completed an additional four field hearings this week as the committee continues to gather input from the farm sector on the next farm bill. Witnesses discussed dairy policies in seven of the nine field hearings held thus far, revealing consensus on the need to improve dairy risk management policies, but also indicating a growing division in the industry over mandatory supply management policies.
Ricky Williams, a dairy farmer with Dairy Farmers of America, endorsed DFA's supply management policy in testimony before Representative David Scott (D-GA) (pictured), chairman of the subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, at the field hearing in Morrow, Georgia. Williams, who is also a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, stated that DFA's supply management concepts are being integrated into a national supply management proposal by the National Milk Producers Federation.
At a field hearing in California earlier in the month, Jamie Bledsoe, president of Western United Dairymen, testified that while the boards of his cooperative and California Dairies Inc. have approved the concept of supply management, they have concerns about the potential implications that mandatory supply management would have on international trade.
Several Oppose Supply Management
Brad Bouma, president of Select Milk Producers and a member of Continental Dairy Products, strongly opposed milk supply management at the Texas field hearing.
"We in the United States are sitting on the cusp of a tremendous opportunity to grow our dairies to supply the world, and we should not be shutting it down by implementing supply management programs," Bouma said. "The underlying principle of all of the supply management proposals is that a government-imposed tax will short the market, which in turn will result in higher prices."
Warren Erickson of Anderson Erickson Dairy, a member of IDFA, expressed similar concerns with supply management at the Iowa field hearing.
"The decade of growth in Iowa milk production, with its increased investment and job creation, would not have been possible if the supply management policies being proposed by pockets of producers in a few states had been in place," Erickson said.
To date, field hearings have been held in Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. There are no additional field hearings scheduled at this time.
"While many issues were raised at the field hearings over the past three weeks, it is clear that there are opposing views on a government supply management program for dairy," said Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, "The industry will never reach consensus on a mandatory supply management program, as fundamentally these policies would penalize farms that are the most innovative and efficient, while neglecting to provide the fundamental risk management tools that everyone agrees are needed."
Dairy policies will again be discussed at the next meeting of USDA's Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, June 3-4, in Washington, D.C. The committee will discuss farm milk price volatility and dairy farmer profitability, review current programs and federal dairy policy, hear proposals from dairy industry groups and receive comments from the public.
For more information, members may contact Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 220-3553.