Wis. Farm Bureau Federation: Adopts new dairy policies

Contact: Casey Langan, Director of Public Relations, 608-828-5711

MADISON – The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation has adopted a set of policies in hopes of improving the short and long-term market prices that dairy farmers face.

WFBF’s board of directors recently approved the recommendations of its 20-member Dairy Committee, made up of dairy farmers from across the state. The short term solutions to dairy’s downturn include moving excess dairy products onto the world market instead of government warehouses, and making lines of credit available to cash-strapped dairy farmers.

“The Farm Bureau would like to see the maximum amount of funds allowed by the World Trade Organization to go into the federal Dairy Export Incentive Program,” said the organization’s president Bill Bruins. “These funds allow our processors to move dairy products onto world markets. A healthy export market for our dairy is what gave us $20 milk last year.”

“Available credit is vital on our farms right now,” Bruins said. “If farmers don’t have access to credit during tough times like this, then we’re in for a disaster.”

In response, Farm Bureau approved a number of policy options to help debt-stressed farmers. They include expanding the USDA’s Economic Emergency Loan Program to include economic disasters in addition to natural disasters, doubling the funding for guaranteed loans in the 2010 budget and waiving the fees associated with obtaining guaranteed loans. Farm Bureau would also like to see a special guaranteed loan program created to help farmers make their payments, similar to the Small Business Administration’s ‘America’s Recovery Capital’ loan program.

Dairy products recently purchased by the U.S. government should be made available to food pantries, says the Farm Bureau, and given away free to the hungry. Additionally, WFBF supports increasing the allowable amount of dairy products for participants of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

In an effort to improve milk quality and eliminate some cattle from a flooded market, Farm Bureau supports both lowering the somatic cell count for milk to be eligible as Grade A to 400,000, and a proposal by National All-Jersey to increase the nonfat solids standards for fluid milk.

“In addition to keeping our Wisconsin dairy farmers viable this year, it’s also very important to use these distressed times to focus our energies on what we can do long-term to improve dairy pricing policies,” Bruins said. “That squarely rests on revamping our milk marketing policy to become a reliable supplier to the world market. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s support of milk marketing reform is a hopeful sign this can happen.”

One thing the Farm Bureau opposes is an extension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent increase of the Dairy Product Support Price and the purchasing of dairy products as a way to boost the milk price.

“Our members are rightfully concerned that when the government purchases dairy products it actually works to prolong low milk prices,” Bruins explained. “The milk price was forecast to begin a recovery this fall. When the government releases these dairy products back onto the market, it will work to blunt the up-tick in price.”

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau will take nearly 30 of its members to Washington D.C. to lobby for these and other farm policies with Wisconsin’s congressional delegation and USDA officials, Sept. 15-17.