April 03, 2019

Van Hollen, Bipartisan Group of Senators Urge Implementation of Farm Bill Dairy Improvements

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has joined a group of his Senate colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, urging him to prioritize the implementation of the dairy provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill. As dairy farmers across the country continue to struggle from market instability, the 2018 Farm Bill dramatically expands support for dairy producers, providing flexible, affordable coverage options through the Dairy Margin Coverage program. Early analysis has shown that the improvements would provide much-needed financial support to dairy farmers – providing significant benefits for all operations and up to 5 times as much support for the smallest farms.

“The situation for dairy farmers is urgent,” the Senators wrote. “Although Dairy Margin Coverage is effective as of January 1, 2019, the government shutdown delayed action on 2018 Farm Bill implementation for over a month. During this time, dairy farmers have continued to face market instability and are struggling to survive the fourth year of sustained low prices.”

“The changes to the Dairy Margin Coverage program make it a much more flexible policy that will likely benefit many of the farmers who chose not to participate in the Margin Protection Program. The USDA should strongly encourage these farmers to consider the Dairy Margin Coverage program,” the Senators continued.

“In the interim, we request that the USDA invest in outreach, training, coordination with partner organizations, and staffing to ensure that every eligible farmer receives personalized information about the new and improved options,” wrote the Senators.

The 2018 Farm Bill also made several other important changes to address the needs of dairy producers, including: a study on the feed components of the margin calculation, a provision to counteract the disincentive for milk donation, continuation of forward contracting, an update to the Class I pricing formula, and a partial refund or credits from premiums paid under the former Margin Protection Program.

The letter was also signed by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), M. Michael Rounds (R-S.D.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Margaret Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Joni K. Ernst    (R-Iowa), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).