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Dairy title important in farm bill debate

July 18, 2013 | 0 comments

The whole farm bill (with nutrition portions included) failed in the House June 20, in part because the final version of the legislation was amended to include a dairy processor-backed measure offered by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA) said some dairy leaders.

It was at that point that some lawmakers who had been in support of the measure changed their votes.

The lawmakers' amendment removed the market stabilization component - what many have called supply management - from the title.

The defeat of the House bill came just 10 days the Senate overwhelmingly approved its own farm bill, with the full Dairy Security Act included. That included the supply management clause that was to kick in when dairy farmers experienced low margins from low milk prices and high feed costs.

It was the devastating low margins - with many farmers operating at a loss and losing generations' worth of equity - that led the National Milk Producers Federation to take the lead in creating a plan that essentially became the Dairy Security Act.

With passage of last week's "farm only" bill in the House on a mostly partisan vote of 216-208 Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF said the bill had doubled down on bad ideas.

"It is seriously flawed, in that it contains the Goodlatte-Scott dairy amendment, as well as a repeal of permanent agricultural law. Neither of these measures serves the best long-term interests of dairy farmers," he said.

The Senate, by contrast, had overwhelmingly passed the complete Dairy Security Act which his organization and nearly all dairy farmers enthusiastically supported, he added.

But Kozak joined other farm leaders in noting that the passage means there is still hope that a new farm bill can be passed in 2013. "Without any progress toward a Senate-House conference committee, we were looking at yet another one-year extension of current programs, which is unacceptable."


The vote on the "farm-only" bill means that agricultural leaders now can work on improving the House bill and developing better dairy policy than what exists now, and what is contained in this House bill.

"The bill today is not the end of the process, but rather a means to a better end that we will continue working with lawmakers to achieve," Kozak said.

John Wilson, Senior Vice President of Dairy Farmers of America called passage of the House farm bill "bittersweet."

Progress on a farm bill is welcome, but it's unfortunate that this movement comes with a bill that doesn't contain the Dairy Security Act, and "falls short on many fronts," he said.

"It is truly disappointing that this omission was the only way to move this bill forward through a divided House of Representatives. Given that the farm bill affects not only the rural economy, but the nation's economy as a whole, it is unfortunate that bi-partisan support has been so difficult to achieve.

Wilson and others remained hopeful that conference negotiations on the Senate bill, which does contain the full Dairy Security Act, and come up with a bill that the dairy industry can embrace.

"The development of this farm bill and specifically reforms in dairy programs has required extraordinary patience, negotiation and perseverance by Congressional Agricultural Committee leaders, dairy farmers and others in agriculture. We urge party leadership in both the House and Senate to quickly name conferees and bring this bill to finalization," Wilson added.


Current farm programs, including the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program, will continue through the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The price support program is authorized through Dec. 31, after which the permanent 1949 law will be activated, potentially resulting in much higher support levels for a variety of farm commodities, including milk.

Rep. Kind (D-WI) - along with most of the Democrats in the House - voted against the latest version of the House farm bill, calling it legislation that is "even more flawed than the farm bill that was rejected by the House last month."

He also complained that House leaders presented the bill under a closed rule which effectively shut down debate and denied any opportunity to amend the bill.

"This bill, like the one rejected last month, failed to include the type of reform needed to make our agriculture policies more fiscally responsible and responsive to the needs of farmers," said Kind. "I attempted to include those reforms in this new bill, but was shut out from the process by a House majority more interested in appeasing big agribusiness than in protecting taxpayers and family farmers."

This is the first time in over four decades that a Farm Bill has come to the floor under a completely closed rule, and the first time in history that such a bill comes to the floor with no legislative hearing or markup.

Normal process for creation of a farm bill involves a "markup" in the House Agriculture Committee where most of the issues (at least in the past) had been ironed out among committee members and leader of Congress.

Last year and this year the Senate took the lead in marking up and passing farm legislation only to be stymied by the House.

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