Much of the conversation surrounding dairy policy the past 18 months has swirled around the hearings and calls for change in the Federal Milk Marketing Orders, and while we agree changes are needed in how the FMMO is structured, we know that the FMMO reform alone does not offer today’s dairy farmers, and processors the protection and assurances it needs today.

Considering that today, only 70% of U.S. milk is covered by the FMMO, leaving 68 billion pounds of milk outside the order and its protections, it is time to make sure all dairy farmers are granted the same confidence and assurance as those within the FMMO system.

When a processor is pooled, farmers receive certainty of third-party verification of milk volume and composition and timely payments twice a month. When a processor is de-pooled, farmers are no longer guaranteed the certainty of these practices as they are outside of FMMO and oversight of the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

We believe the best way to provide the protection of timely payments and accurate testing is to codify these measures as legislative text in the next farm bill. Moving these basic practices into the farm bill will prevent the extension of milk payments and give farmers and processors third-party verification of their milk weights and components.

Without these protections, farmers outside the FMMO could see payments extend past 30 days to 60 or 90 days, leaving farmers without consistent cash flow. They would also be without recourse should they have a discrepancy with their testing verification. 

We believe these provisions should be fundamental for all dairy farmers.

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Timely payments and required third-party weight verification provide a structure of mutual confidence and transparency between processors and farmers and should be preserved for all stakeholders.

Unlike many of the issues brought forward in the FMMO hearings and discussions, we believe these are provisions that the entirety of the dairy industry should endorse. We are simply asking to extend protections now afforded to farmers and processors through the FMMO to the farm bill to be sure ALL dairy farmers are protected with basic assurances.

While we understand farm bill discussions are ongoing with an uncertain completion date, we believe it is imperative that we bring this matter forward to the key decision-makers to be sure dairy farmers are protected.

Together, we can continue to provide dairy farms and the families that rely on them with fundamental business certainty. 

If you are interested in joining us in this important effort, please reach out:

Tim Trotter is CEO of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative. Edge, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was founded in 2010 as the Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative and is now one of the largest co-ops in the country in terms of milk volume.