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First Farm Bill Field Hearing Tackles Dairy Policy

Apr 23, 2010

Earlier this week the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing in Harrisburg, Penn., to review domestic dairy policy in preparation for the next farm bill. Testimony and committee questions covered a variety of topics, including risk management, dairy price reporting regulations, industry investment and access to credit.

Six dairy producers testified at the hearing, along with one dairy processor, Todd Rutter (pictured), who is president of Rutter's Dairy, an IDFA member. Russell Redding, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and Jim Dunn, Ph.D., who is professor of Agricultural Economics at Penn State University, also testified.

Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) hosted the hearing for the three representatives from Pennsylvania who serve on the committee: Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA) and Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA). Other legislators who attended were Rep. David Scott (D-GA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry; Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), the ranking member of the subcommittee; and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA).

"A common theme addressed by all of the witnesses at the hearing was the need for appropriate risk management tools in the dairy industry," said Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs.

Responding to the witnesses' statements, Peterson reiterated his commitment to help develop usable risk management tools for the dairy industry. He also noted that he has observed the dairy industry moving closer to some consensus on this issue.

Although supply management was not a prominent topic at the hearing, Dunn said, when asked, that he does not support supply management programs. He said the programs do not generate stable income flow, but rather capitalize into higher asset values. In his testimony, Redding mentioned the positive opportunity that exists to expand U.S. dairy exports. He said the additional production would create jobs in dairy-related businesses and welcome the next generation of dairy producers back to profitable operations.

Several witnesses said USDA should change the current dairy price reporting regulations to increase both the frequency and number of products reported.

Rutter asked the legislators to consider both his milk suppliers and his dairy customers when evaluating the impact of dairy policies. He also emphasized the need for the dairy industry to invest in its aging infrastructure, which could be facilitated through expanded credit access.

The committee will hold four additional hearings in California, Idaho, Iowa and Wyoming later this month to focus on all farm bill programs, including dairy.
For more information, contact Saunders at or (202) 220-3553.

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