Gillibrand bills could upset dairy reform consensus

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

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WASHINGTON, April 3, 2013 - Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., yesterday announced a host of new dairy initiatives aimed at protecting New York's small dairy farmers. In a teleconference with reporters yesterday, Sen. Gillibrand placed special emphasis on a new piece of bipartisan legislation - the Dairy Pricing Reform Act, cosponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine - Gillibrand says will do away with milk market distortions and bring “income fairness” to small dairies.

Gillibrand's announcement was especially notable because it points to a division in the Democratic party - one that may become significant if and when a new farm bill moves to mark-up. The New York senator specifically called out the Dairy Security Act, the brainchild of House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. Gillibrand says Peterson's plan would stymie small dairy growth by placing “mandatory caps on how many cows you have today.”

Sen. Gillibrand also marked herself out as an opponent of comprehensive supply management. Her Dairy Income Fairness Act would exempt the first 200 cows from that oversight process, whereas Peterson's bill includes no such “protection” for small dairy farmers.

“The reason why supply management is in the farm bill is that Congressman Peterson thinks you can't have a functioning insurance system without supply management,” she explained yesterday to reporters.

In contrast, she said, her plan would “try to protect the smallest dairies, because we do not want to see consolidation in the dairy industry…New York will remain the home of small dairies.” The state's 5,150 dairy farms are exceeded only by Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to USDA 2012 statistics.

Gillibrand assured listeners “[House Speaker] Boehner might support this version” of supply management. Last year, Boehner, R-Ohio, called House Agriculture Committee farm bill dairy market stabilization provisions “Soviet style” for their efforts to cut back on production when profit margins are tight.

Gillibrand's two other initiatives announced yesterday include a Senate farm bill provision that would make mandatory the reporting of cold storage inventory and piece of “transparency and information” legislation that would require dairy cooperatives to provide more information to members when casting bloc votes in Federal Milk Marketing Order referenda.


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