WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2015 – More than half of the nation’s dairy farms have signed up for the new Margin Protection Program that was created by the 2014 farm bill to protect producer incomes from spikes in feed costs and collapses in milk prices, the Agriculture Department says.

The more than 23,000 enrolled farms have about 59 percent of total U.S. milk production, according to USDA.

Enrollment had been lagging until milk prices slumped and USDA provided two short extensions in the signup period in late 2015.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the enrollment exceeded expectations for the first year of a new program. “When you compare the initial enrollment rate for the Margin Protection Program to the longstanding federal crop insurance program, where participation ranges from 30 percent to 80 percent depending on the crop, it’s clear that these outreach efforts made a difference,” he said.

[Keeping your eye on farm bill implementation? We’re covering it and lots of other ag and rural policy news. You won’t miss a beat if you sign up today for a four-week free trial Agri-Pulse subscription. ]

Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said the signup was “an encouraging start to this crucial new safety net program for our industry.”

The program triggers payments to producers when the difference between the price of milk and feed costs falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer. Basic coverage is available for a fee of $100. Higher levels require the payment of premiums. About 13,000 of the enrollees opted for the higher levels of coverage, USDA said.
The signup for 2016 coverage will run from July 1 to Sept. 30.