National Milk, Farm Bureau, NFU, Peterson praise USDA for dairy purchases | TSLN.com

National Milk, Farm Bureau, NFU, Peterson praise USDA for dairy purchases

The National Milk Producers Federation, the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union and House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., all praised the Agriculture Department Tuesday for the announcement that it would purchase $20 billion in dairy products even though it was less than what agriculture groups and members of Congress asked it purchase.

USDA announced plans to purchase approximately 11 million pounds of cheese from private inventories to assist food banks and pantries across the nation. USDA noted that the purchase is valued at $20 million and would reduce "a cheese surplus that is at its highest level in 30 years."

National Milk had urged USDA to spend up to $150 million to purchase cheese, while Farm Bureau said $50 million would be helpful.

"We understand that the nation's dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions and that food banks continue to see strong demand for assistance," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release.

"This commodity purchase is part of a robust, comprehensive safety net that will help reduce a cheese surplus that is at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein food to the tables of those most in need. USDA will continue to look for ways within its authorities to tackle food insecurity and provide for added stability in the marketplace."

USDA noted it had received requests from Congress, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau and the National Milk Producers Federation to make an immediate dairy purchase. Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 authorizes USDA to utilize fiscal year 2016 funds to purchase surplus food to benefit food banks and families in need through its nutrition assistance programs.

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USDA also announced that it will extend the deadline for dairy producers to enroll in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy to December 16, 2016, from the previous deadline of September 30.

This voluntary dairy safety net program, established by the 2014 farm bill, provides financial assistance to participating dairy producers when the margin — the difference between the price of milk and feed costs — falls below the coverage level selected by the producer.

National Milk Producers Federation — "We appreciate the prompt action taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture today to purchase $20 million worth of cheese products to donate to food assistance programs, following the request made to USDA by NMPF on August 12," National Milk President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in a news release.

"We will continue to assess the economic situation facing dairy farmers, and suggest ways to help farmers endure this lengthy period of low prices," Mulhern added.

"We also appreciate the USDA extending the sign-up deadline for enrollment decisions in the dairy Margin Protection Program. Giving farmers until December 16 to adjust their coverage levels for calendar year 2017 will help increase the opportunity for dairy farmers to utilize this crucial risk management tool," Mulhern said.

American Farm Bureau Federation — "The Agriculture Department helped farmers and America's struggling families alike, today," said Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.

"The USDA's action will help alleviate the tough realities of the market and keep family farmers in business at a time when too many are leaving. More than 1,200 family dairy farms went out of business in 2015. We greatly appreciate USDA's taking this action to help our beleaguered dairy producers."

National Farmers Union — "NFU appreciates USDA's continued commitment to dairy producers, especially within a very tight budget," said President Roger Johnson said. "The current environment, however, has left dairy farmers struggling with severe economic strain, and it requires a more robust response."

Johnson added, "NFU hopes USDA will continue to assist dairy producers as funding allows. We also recognize that USDA alone cannot solve the current problem. Congress must quickly provide the department with much needed resources so that they may better assist our nation's producers."

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. — "Today's announcement is welcome news."

"The combination of declining milk prices and record high cheese stocks has left many dairy farmers struggling. Through this cheese purchase, both farmers and those utilizing USDA nutrition programs, will get some relief. Additionally, dairy farmers will have more time to enroll in MPP and protect themselves against potential future volatility."

"MPP is an improvement over the past dairy safety net but as we look ahead to the next farm bill, I will be working closely with my colleagues and dairy farmers across the country to improve upon the program."

A USDA web tool allows dairy producers to calculate levels of coverage available from MPP, based on price projections.

–The Hagstrom Report