WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2015 – Dairy producers who have not yet enrolled for 2016 coverage under USDA’s Margin Protection Program have until Nov. 20 to make their annual elections.

Established by the 2014 farm bill, the program provides financial assistance to dairy producers when the margin—the difference between feed costs and the price of milk—falls below the coverage level selected by the applicant.

“This safety net is not automatic, so producers must visit their local FSA (Farm Safety Agency) office to enroll,” FSA Administrator Val Dolcini said in a release. Almost half of all dairy farms in America have made their annual elections for 2016 coverage. FSA says.

“Despite the best forecasts, the dairy industry is cyclical and markets can change quickly. This program is like any insurance product, where investing in a policy today will protect against catastrophic economic consequences tomorrow.”

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FSA estimates that based on current participation rates, had the program existed before the 2014 farm bill, producers in 2009 would have invested $73 million in premiums and received $1.44 billion in financial protection during that historically weak market period.

Enrolled dairy operations must pay a $100 administrative fee annually to receive basic catastrophic coverage. Greater levels of margin protection are available for a higher premium, and provide expanded coverage based on historic dairy production. Once enrolled, producers can change their levels of coverage each year.

 Dairy producers are encouraged to review protection options online by clicking here, or by visiting their local FSA county office.