Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday unveiled the new Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Payment (DELAP) program, which will provide financial relief to struggling producers. The $290 million in funding for these one-time payments was included in the 2010 Agricultural Appropriations Bill passed by Congress less than two months ago.
Any dairy producer with less than $500,000 in non-farm income is eligible to receive direct payments through the program. They will be paid based on the amount of milk they produced and sold commercially during the months of February through July 2009. USDA will use this information to estimate a full year's production, which will be capped at six million pounds per dairy operation, to calculate the payments.
IDFA supported the concept of direct payments and earlier urged USDA and Congress to use the funding in ways that would offer immediate assistance while minimizing market impact.
"We are pleased that the department moved quickly to help dairy farmers as it's been a difficult year," said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative and economic affairs. "We still need to look for longer-term solutions as our current dairy programs were not designed for the realities of the 21st-century dairy industry."
U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) also thanked Vilsack for implementing what he called a "stop-gap measure" for dairy farmers. He echoed IDFA's call for policy reform.
"Looking forward, it is obvious that our existing dairy programs are not providing an adequate safety net for dairy farmers, and we need to look at ways we can reform dairy policy to ensure that it provides adequate support for the long-term success of the industry," Peterson said. "I'm committed to working with the dairy industry to consider appropriate changes that we can include in the next Farm Bill."
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chair of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said, "This assistance is a much-needed helping hand during these very difficult times, and I am pleased to see USDA's swift action to ensure it reaches those in need in a timely manner."
Read the USDA news release here.