The 2010 Agriculture Appropriations conference report, which was completed last week, includes an additional $350 million to assist dairy producers. The bill designates $60 million of the $350 million for "cheese and other dairy product" purchases and gives the remaining $290 million to the Secretary of Agriculture to provide direct assistance to dairy producers.
The Senate added the $350 million when it debated its version of the bill in early August. The conference committee rejected the arguments of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who wanted to use the funding to further increase price support levels beyond those announced by Secretary Vilsack on July 31.
According to a joint press release from Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, and Representative David Obey (D-WI), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the $290 million is for "direct support to dairy farmers using guidelines to be determined by the Secretary of Agriculture under an expedited process." The $60 million is to be used for "cheese and dairy product purchases for food banks and other nutrition and feeding programs."
IDFA supported the additional funding for dairy producers provided that it would be used in ways, such as direct payments, that would not unduly impact dairy markets.
"We congratulate the appropriators for developing a responsible compromise on this issue," said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy. "In recent years the U.S. Department of Agriculture has purchased $25 million or less of reduced fat cheese for donation through USDA nutrition and feeding programs. The additional $60 million in the 2010 bill will allow USDA to purchase a much broader array of dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese sticks, that would be nutritious additions to the supplemental commodity foods programs, and we're pleased that the appropriations committees chose to follow this approach."
The House-Senate Conference Committee met last Wednesday to approve the report, including the compromise over the additional dairy funding, and the report is scheduled to be considered in the House later this week. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), however, has expressed concerns about the report and pledged to hold up consideration in the Senate.
Boxer is concerned that the conference report will reallocate funds that are likely to benefit small dairy producers in the Northeast and Midwest, rather than all dairy producers. She has requested a meeting with Secretary Vilsack to press for equitable distribution of the emergency funding and pledged to hold up any move forward on the report until she meets with him.
A summary of the bill's provisions can be found here.
For more information, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.