By Stewart Doan
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, June 2 - The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee wants to reform federal dairy policy ahead of the 2012 Farm Bill debate.
Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson backs the National Milk Producers Federation’s (NMPF) dairy market stabilization program, dubbed Foundation for the Future, and says a just-completed Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring shows the proposal would cost taxpayers less than existing dairy policy and therefore would not add to the budget deficit, satisfying a key demand of House Republican leaders. He refused to share details of CBO’s estimate.
“We are finishing the drafting of the bill right now,” Peterson said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with Agri-Pulse for next week’s Open Mic webcast. “What I’m pushing for is that we introduce the bill in next week or two.
“National Milk has done a good job of bringing everybody together (and) the time to move is now,” he said, while expressing his hope that Chairman Frank Lucas would sign off on the accelerated timetable.
A spokesperson for Lucas declined to comment for this story.
While milk prices are profitable now, the urgency for Congress to enact a more robust risk management safety net now stems from Peterson’s belief that a repeat of the cost-price squeeze that occurred in 2009 would result in the loss of “half our dairy farmers. And we’ll never get them back.”
Peterson said Senate Ag Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow told him a week ago she was open to fast-tracking dairy legislation through the upper chamber, provided the House acted first.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), which represents processors, opposes NMPF’s package of reforms and prefers that lawmakers deal with dairy as part of the upcoming farm bill re-write. It claims Foundation for the Future would limit U.S. dairy export potential and impede world food security while increasing domestic price volatility.
“IDFA needs to get real,” said Peterson, who countered that passage of the comprehensive plan would give processors three-fourths of the changes in dairy policy they’ve sought for the last ten years.
Ultimately, “I think we’ll see broad support across all spectrums of the dairy industry,” he predicted.
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