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Dairy farmers urge Congress to support sound dairy policy alternatives

(Friday, June 6, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release.

Contact: John Kinsman (608) 986-3815
Molly Spence (202) 543-5675
John Bunting (607) 746-3892
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 5, 2003 The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) submitted a statement* to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry Wednesday regarding its “State of the Dairy Industry” hearing held May 20, 2003. NFFC urges Congress to carefully review sound dairy policy proposals created by family farmers as well as concerned citizens and consumers who support a future for the nation’s rural communities.

Various dairy industry representatives testified--all from the largest sectors such as the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association. Almost all testifiers uttered the phrase “current dairy policies and programs are not working,” at one time or another during their statements--at no time, however, did they stop to explain why. NFFC maintains U.S. dairy policy fails because it does not: include a cost of production formula, re-establish fair farm-gate price funding in the market place, and/or allow the market place to stabilize properly.

“All the major dairy cooperatives spoke at the hearing,” said Ron Morrisette, NFFC Executive Committee member from Springfield, Vermont. “But none of them said anything about how to solve the problem except the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and that’s nothing but a quick-fix tax. We really need a national dairy policy.”

NFFC urged the 108 th Congress to establish sound dairy policy instead of relying on the NMPF’s “Band-Aid approach” Cooperative’s Working Together (CWT) Program. The CWT program, as proposed by NMPF, would charge every dairy farmer an assessment, or "tax," used to finance a dairy-herd reduction, theoretically decreasing milk production. The fact of the matter is the CWT program will finance a “herd retirement program” in the Western states, states that create America’s dairy surplus, with taxes from farmers who can least afford it--those in the Northeast and Midwest.

The CWT program is dangerous because desperate times call for desperate measures--if NMPF allows all farmers to participate, farmers in the most desperate economic situation will choose to sell-out. “One farmer said that if the CWT whole-herd buy-out program is instituted, he will ‘jump’ on it,” said Bryan Wolfe, Vice President of the Ashtabula, Geauga & Lake County Farmers Union in Ohio. “Because he’s had enough--the farmers here in Ohio talked about totally inadequate milk prices, dismal crop progress (or total lack of progress) due to recent weather conditions, their inability to secure bank loans or support, and the extremely high costs of maintaining equipment--these farmers are desperate.”

“Right now the hope of recovery is gone,” said New York dairy farmer John Bunting. “Because of low milk prices, most farmers don’t have the money to plant spring crops and farms are collapsing faster than anyone could have anticipated.”

NFFC warned the 108 th Congress that America’s dairy infrastructure stands threatened by the largest U.S. milk cooperatives that abuse the power to collectively bargain on behalf of dairy farmer members. In fact, many milk cooperatives and dairy processors work collaboratively to keep farm milk prices low, reducing corporate costs.

“If Congress idly sits by while watching these milk cooperatives and dairy processors destroy dairy farms region-by-region,” said John Kinsman, NFFC Vice President and Wisconsin dairy farmer, “there won’t be any dairy farms left.”

NFFC’s policy approach would help stabilize supply with demand while creating a dairy system that truly works for the nation's dairy farmers, rural communities, and consumers. NFFC urges Congress to carefully review sound dairy policy created by and on behalf of family farmers, concerned citizens/consumers and rural communities.


*If you would like to receive a copy of NFFC’s submitted statement, send an email request to the office at nffc@nffc.net

The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), founded in 1986, brings together farmers and others to organize national projects focused on preserving and strengthening family farms and rural communities. The organization’s mission is to serve as a national link for grassroots organizations working on family farm issues. NFFC membership consists of 30 grassroots farm, resource conservation, and rural advocacy groups from 32 states. NFFC coordinates grass roots efforts on the following issues: farm and trade policy centered on cost of production plus profit pricing at the farm level; equal access to farm credit programs; environmental stewardship; an affordable food supply; educational campaigns about biotechnology and corporate control of food production. For further information about the organization, call 1-800-639-3276 or visit http://www.nffc.net .