For Immediate Release
Senate Agriculture Committee Moves Forward on U.S. Dairy Policies
(Washington, D.C. October 25, 2007)
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) commends the Senate Agriculture Committee for making significant improvements in dairy policies in its version of the 2007 Farm Bill. The committee completed its work expeditiously today. The bill next moves to consideration by the full Senate.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) included several key reforms in the dairy subtitle. The bill reauthorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) pilot forward contracting program for dairy products and authorizes a new commission to improve federal milk pricing policies. Both of these Farm Bill provisions were sought by IDFA. IDFA is also pleased that the bill excludes the dairy import assessment, a provision that could invite World Trade Organization (WTO) challenges and retaliatory tariffs that could cut off access to markets for growing U.S. dairy exports.
"The Senate Farm Bill moved forward under the strong leadership of Senator Harkin, along with Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND). They did an excellent job of getting a contentious bill through committee while assuring a balanced dairy title was included," said Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO. "Overall, IDFA member companies are pleased with the progress and improvements in dairy policies that are contained in the Senate Farm Bill that passed the committee today."
The Senate committee also adopted some provisions that IDFA does not support, including changes to the Dairy Price Support Program that remove USDA's ability to lower dairy product prices if large inventories of government-owned stocks accumulate. The Senate bill also raises the payment rate and increases the volume of milk production for which eligible farmers can receive payment under the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. An amendment offered by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) to require additional payments triggered by the cost of feed grains was defeated by the committee. Objections were raised that the dairy amendment would be unfair to some dairy producers and other farm sectors that do not have programs to cover costs of production.
IDFA is concerned that the committee adopted an amendment that would require daily mandatory dairy product reporting on an expanded level compared to current requirements. During consideration of this amendment, USDA representatives expressed concern about the feasibility of daily reporting.
"IDFA has long supported mandatory dairy product reporting and auditing. In light of the current USDA rulemaking to improve mandatory reporting, we are concerned that Congress is short-circuiting the process by requiring additional reporting that is unnecessary and unduly burdensome," said IDFA Chief Economist Bob Yonkers.
Separately, IDFA commends Senator Pat Leahy's (D-VT) leadership in establishing a new program for northeast dairy producers. The Northeast Dairy Nutrient Management and Energy Development Program were included in the Senate Farm Bill to fund multi-state research, nutrient management and energy development projects.
The Farm Bill is expected to reach the Senate floor for action as early as next week. In order to finalize the Farm Bill, the Senate and House must complete a conference on their respective Farm Bill provisions and get a bill to President Bush before adjournment this session.
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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, DC, represents the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 530 companies representing a $90-billion a year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA's 220 dairy processing members run more than 600 plant operations, and range from large multi-national organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85% of the milk, cultured products, cheese and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States. IDFA can be found online at www.idfa.org