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Congress OKs New Safety Net for Dairy

by Bev Berens

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018

Joe Shultz, staff director for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, announced immediate and much needed changes to the dairy portion of the current farm bill on the final day of Great Lakes Dairy Expo held in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Shultz made a late-night trip from Washington, D.C. to personally bring the news to Michigan dairy farmers who have found little relief in the dairy safety net under the current farm bill's Margin Protection Plan (MPP) for dairy producers. The new plan was tied to the budget bill passed last Friday morning and will pump more than a billion dollars into the dairy safety net in the next 10 years.

"The MPP was not working and was one of the bigger disappointments of the 2014 Farm Bill," Shultz said. "Sen. Stabenow has been working to fix the problems and make a redo before the 2018 Farm Bill is finalized. The changes in the dairy programs for the farm bill are effective immediately because the need is so great."

The bi-partisan agreement significantly remakes MPP and will also provide more crop insurance options for dairy and livestock producers.

Changes include better affordability for coverage by slashing premiums up to 80 percent for small and medium dairy farms, waive administrative fees for underserved, beginning farmers and veterans, make the program more responsive by adjusting for price drops and feed cost increases monthly instead of bi-monthly triggering quicker payments, and gives opportunity for immediate signup or change coverage levels already established for 2018.

The two-tiered coverage will be expanded to 5 million pounds of production enabled for protect on the first tier, up from 4 million pounds.

New opportunities for crop insurance are another result as the update removes arbitrary limits on developing new dairy insurance tools and creates some customizable dairy feed crop risk management tools. Additional tools and options for feed crop insurance products will be included as the 2018 Farm Bill comes together.

Shultz said to expect only minor adjustments in the program as the 2018 Farm Bill evolves.

"If you have had a discouraging experience with the program in the past, you are not alone," Shultz added. "We encourage you to try it again and take a new look."

Earlier that morning, dairy girls of all ages and from all walks of the dairy industry gathered for a breakfast hosted by Dairy Girl Network. Kristi Keilen of Westphalia, Mich. facilitated the event, which, despite the early hour, led to lively conversation and networking over coffee and pastry.

The National Dairy Girl Network facilitates events across the U.S. for women in the dairy industry to learn about topics, develop new skills and meet other women with similar interests. Two Dairy Girl Network groups operate in Michigan including one in the Thumb and Bay City area while the second network serves the rest of the state.

The group discussed activities that would be of interest to group members. An event is in the planning process for June to teach dairy girls how to better understand seeding rates, plant stands and other items that impact the growing corn crop and future feed sources. Details have yet to be finalized.

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