Since late April, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine has been hosting a series of policy discussions with stakeholders to identify and establish priorities for New York in the 2012 Farm Bill debate. The May 20 session, held at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, covered dairy policy and was widely attended by New York dairy industry representatives. A significant portion of the discussion focused on the controversial topic of federal milk supply control, as proposed in the National Milk Producers Federation's (NMPF) "Foundation for the Future" policy proposal.
The session was open to the public and included a panel discussion with representatives from Agri-Mark Inc., Dairylea, Dairy Exporters of America, Lactalis American Group, the Northeast Dairy Foods Association and the New York Farm Bureau. Two dairy producer co-ops advocated for supply control as proposed in Foundation for the Future, while others, both producers and processors, expressed opposition to it.
Opponents said federal supply control would be counter to the state's efforts to encourage dairy development, interrupting New York's milk supply and the growth needed to attract plants to locate in New York. Dairy producers also raised the concern that milk supply control would impede a farmer's decision to be able to grow to a size that could support the next generation.
The hearing was an opportunity to voice opposition to mandatory, government-run milk supply-control policy, according to John Rutherford, director of milk procurement for Lactalis American Group, which is an IDFA member. In his comments, he referred to the 2009 report by Bain & Co. that found the U.S. dairy industry has a huge opportunity to expand production of cheese, yogurt and other products in global markets.
"The industry already has the Bain report that agreed that the industry has changed and needs to focus on exports for growth, but it did not in any way suggest growth management was the way to get there," Rutherford said.
General Support for Risk Management Tools
While there was no consensus on Foundation for the Future, there was general support for risk management tools that would allow producers to independently choose their coverage package. Several people advocated for the federal Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) insurance program, currently out of funding for the remainder of 2011, along with better risk-management education for producers.
A few regional issues also came to light at the hearing, including the endorsement by the New York Farm Bureau of a proposal from California to set higher fluid nonfat-solid standards nationwide. Dairy producers were also divided on whether milk supply control could be tailored to accommodate regional differences, instead of the nationwide program proposed by NMPF.
Commissioner Aubertine said the information gathered at each session will be compiled into a working document that he will use to communicate New York's positions on federal agriculture policy to policy makers in Washington, D.C. Staff members for Senator Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY), the chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Marketing and Agriculture Security, also attended the meeting.
IDFA encourages all members to participate in similar opportunities to discuss federal dairy policy with their state opinion leaders. For more information, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.