Wisconsin tweaks dairy insurance program

Associated Press

LA CROSSE (AP) - Wisconsin lawmakers have tweaked a federal price insurance program following criticism from dairy farmers.

Farmers say tweaks to dairy insurance program not enough.

The Margin Protection Program for Dairy allows farmers to buy insurance that pays out when the cost to produce milk becomes too close to milk's selling price, the La Crosse Tribune reported .

But Wisconsin dairy farmers said the program doesn't fully account for feed, supplements and transportation costs.

"It's not a true reflection of costs," said Tom Jandt, a dairy farmer from Barre Mills who said he's yet to receive any benefits from the program.

The MPP was a great idea, said Frank Ponterio, a small dairy farmer from Melrose, but lawmakers changed the feed cost calculations and stripped production limits.

“There’s no way of stopping all this milk from being produced,” he said.

Farmer Ken Wunderlin spent about $10,000 a year for coverage in 2015 and 2016, but has only received about $5,000 in payouts from the program.

More than 6,500 dairy farmers signed up for the program in its first year, with most buying coverage for when production margins fall below $6.50. But participation fell to less than 5,300 last year, with 90 percent of farmers buying coverage in the lowest tier, for when margins fell below $4.

"It didn't do the job of risk management they hoped it would," said U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Baldwin introduced changes to the program that would lower the cost of premiums for small- and medium-sized producers. Farmers are now also allowed to participate in other risk management programs.

The continuing resolution includes an additional $10 billion during the next decade to help lower premiums in two production insurance programs.

"We are extremely pleased with the changes that were made," said Karen Gefvert, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's director of governmental relations.

But while some farmers believe the changes will help, they don't view the program as a solution to the industry's problems.

"It doesn't really fix the situation," Wunderlin said. "We've got too much milk."