Dairy Structure Management Overhaul Moves Into New Phase

By Brad Rach

We’re turning a big corner in our dairy policy work. As you may recall, we developed two policy proposals and introduced both in a series of Dairy Roadshow meetings around the country this past winter.

We participated in The Dairy Roadshow meetings in partnership with Wisconsin Farmers Union, other state NFU chapters and Holstein Association USA. During those meetings, we presented two programs, an emergency relief act and a longer-term structure management program. We had many good discussions which led us to a final program we will now begin promoting as potential legislation. We have combined elements of the two proposals we introduced at the Roadshow into a single proposal called The Dairy Farm Structure Management Program.

As you may know, family-sized dairy farm numbers are in freefall. We lost one in three during 2012-2017. This trend goes on, and worsens, day by day. Most smaller dairy farms grow most of their own feed, that is, they do not buy it on the open market. For that reason, the current Dairy Margin Coverage program will not help much in times when market prices for feed are low.

Our program is an alternative to, and not a substitute for, the current Dairy Margin Coverage program. Dairy farmers are free to choose one or the other, but not both.

We have sought the advice of dairy farmers, farm organizations and Federal Milk Market Order administrators in developing The Dairy Farm Structure Management Program. We appeal to you for support. The future of one of our national treasures, the family-sized dairy farm, is at stake.

Our program guarantees certain public payments to family-sized farms. It also provides additional payments to smaller farms in times when milk prices are too low to cover farm operating costs.

Our program is administered through the existing Federal Milk Marketing Order system—no additional bureaucracy is required.

We need special programs, targeted for family-sized dairies only, to maintain the social and economic advantages smaller dairy farms provide.

The Maine Dairy Relief Program, in place since 2004, has effectively stabilized farm numbers in Maine. The Dairy Farm Structure Management Program adapts that program to fit national needs.

Our National Dairy Committee, made up of national board members, has served in countless work sessions guiding us to where we are now.

It is time to set aside efforts to come up with still better plans and start the work of getting what we have into legislation. The sickening rate at which we are losing family-sized dairies leaves us no other choice.

We are moving in a new direction. Let’s all work together, as we always have, to save and promote what Dick Bylsma calls a great American treasure—the American family dairy farm.