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House strips dairy supply management; But it's moot with bill's non-passage

June 27, 2013 | 0 comments

WASHINGTON, DC

One of the points of contention that led to the House failure to pass a five-year farm bill last week was the dairy title, which has been debated throughout the legislative process.

During the amendment process lawmakers approved the Goodlatte-Scott amendment, also called the Dairy Freedom Act, on a vote of 291-135. The amendment removed the dairy market stabilization program from the dairy title of the farm bill.

That was the portion of the dairy title that allowed for supply management for dairy farmers who participated in the margin insurance program - essentially forcing them to cut back on production when margins are out of whack - feed prices are high and farm gate milk prices are low.

The Wisconsin-based Dairy Business Association has been pushing for the amendment offered by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and David Scott (D-GA) since last year, saying that any cutback in production will hurt America's position as a dairy exporter.

Laurie Fischer, DBA's Executive Director, said the Goodlatte/Scott amendment because "represents free market reforms to our dairy industry, and we are thrilled with the vote."

Fischer said Speaker of the House John Boehner, (R-OH), sent a letter to House members urging them to vote against the Dairy Security Act, which included the supply management program.

Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, a group that had largely been responsible for many of the provisions in the Dairy Security Act, was disappointed when the Goodlatte-Scott amendment was adopted as part of the House's farm bill.

"It is a disappointment to America's dairy farmers who recognize this amendment for what it is - an effort to ensure that dairy processors get a government-insured supply of cheap milk. But the House vote against final passage of the farm bill makes the Goodlatte-Scott vote a hollow victory for its proponents," he added.

Kozak said dairy farmers in his organization always knew they faced a difficult challenge in the more urban and suburban-oriented House, especially with House Speaker John Boehner personally committed to defeating the Dairy Security Act.

"But we're hopeful that the House and Senate will eventually find a way to write a compromise farm bill. When they do, we believe the agriculture conferees who develop that final bill will understand the importance of the more balanced approach to dairy policy contained in the Senate-passed farm bill," Kozak added.

Kozak called the House rejection of its Agriculture Committee's dairy proposal, which included margin insurance plus market stabilization, a "fiscally reckless vote, with negative implications for the dairy producer sector, but also for the entire farm bill.

"By eliminating the market stabilization component, the Goodlatte-Scott amendment removed the cost control mechanism from this measure, greatly increasing government and taxpayer cost exposure."

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