Fall Fly-In is Almost Here! Plus: Opt-Out Option Dairy Margin Protection
Fall Fly-In is Almost Here! Plus: Opt-Out Option Dairy Margin Protection
Issue 339 ~ September 7, 2017
Opt-Out Option for 2018 Dairy Margin Protection Program
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that dairy producers would be able to opt out of the Dairy Margin Protection Program (DMPP) for 2018.
DMPP, which replaced the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program, was implemented in 2014. For a $100 administrative fee, participating producers are provided catastrophic coverage when the national dairy production margin, the difference between the all-milk price and average feed costs, is less than $4 per hundredweight. For a premium, producers can also purchase various levels of “buy-up coverage,” which offers payments when margins fall between $4 and $8 per hundredweight.
Though the program is voluntary, producers who enrolled when it was introduced in 2014 were expected to re-enroll every year through 2018. Though they were able to choose different levels of buy-up coverage each year, purchasing catastrophic coverage was required.
National Farmers Union was initially optimistic about the program, particularly the flexibility it gave dairy producers to select coverage levels best for their operations. Dairy farmers were optimistic as well – more than 50% of U.S. dairy farms signed up for some level of coverage. However, in the subsequent years, it became clear that the program was not performing as expected. Although milk prices have remained significantly below the cost of production, payments have only been allocated to producers opting in to the highest levels of coverage. In response, NFU’s Board of Directors released a resolution calling on legislators to provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to provide direct assistance to struggling producers, and to refund dairy DMPP premiums.
Producers who wish to opt-out of DMPP next year can do so by simply not signing up during the registration period. Those opting out would not receive any MPP-Dairy benefits if payments are triggered for 2018.
RFS Creates Jobs, Bolsters Rural Communities, Strengthens Energy Independence, & Protects the Environment
For the past decade, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been a boon to American-grown renewable energy development, thereby expanding markets for family farmers, creating jobs in rural communities, shoring up American energy independence, and cleaning up the environment.
The program sets a minimum volume of renewable fuel to “replace or reduce the quantity of petroleum-based transportation fuel.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines volume obligations for four types of renewable fuel categories: biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel.
In November, the EPA will issue new renewable fuel volume obligations under RFS. Given the law’s significant benefits, NFU President Roger Johnson last week submitted public comments urging the agency to issue volume obligations that expand markets for higher blends of ethanol and advanced biofuels.
In early July, the EPA released the Trump Administration’s first proposed set of volume obligations, which maintained the conventional biofuel amount at 15 billion gallons, but lowered obligations for advanced biofuels, ultimately falling 7 billion gallons short of levels prescribed by Congress in the RFS statute. In his comments, Johnson called on the EPA to improve on July’s proposal, emphasizing the importance of increasing use of higher ethanol blends to preserve the integrity of the program.
Read more about RFS and NFU’s public comments in the release.
Greg Ibach, nominee for Under Secretary for Marketing Programs.
Trump Nominates Ibach, Northey, & Vaden for Key USDA Positions
Last week, President Donald Trump announced his nominees for three key leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He named Stephen Vaden as USDA’s General Counsel, Greg Ibach as Under Secretary for Marketing Programs, and Bill Northey as Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.
Stephen Vaden, an attorney hailing from Yale, has been at USDA as a Senior Advisor to the Office of General Counsel and then as Acting General Counsel since March. He also served two D.C. law firms and clerked for two judges. If confirmed as Chief Counsel for the USDA, Vaden would provide legal services for the agency’s programs, operations, and activities.
Greg Ibach is the current agricultural director of Nebraska and has previously worked as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. He also spent six years working for Farm Credit Services and operates a cattle and grain operation with his family in Nebraska. Pending confirmation, Ibach will lead USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).
Bill Northey, nominee for Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.
Bill Northey has been Iowa’s secretary of agriculture since 2006. In the past, Northey has also served as president of the National Corn Growers Association and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). As Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, Northey would head USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA).
Confirmation hearings for all three nominees have not yet been scheduled. President Trump’s pick for USDA’s chief scientist, Sam Clovis, is also awaiting his confirmation hearing.
From September 11-13, attendees will hear from U.S. Department of Agriculture officials about current events, opportunities and other work the department is doing on behalf of farmers. They will also receive briefings from U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Agriculture leadership and staff. NFU also honors members of Congress with one of its highest honors, The Golden Triangle Award.
The most important agenda item of the fly-in, however, are the meetings on Capitol Hill. Teams of Farmers Union members will stop by the office of every member of Congress. Grassroots efforts at their finest, Farmers Union members will highlight the key priorities for the organization, struggles they are facing, and goals for future legislation and the next farm bill. This year, members will focus on the farm safety net, access to health care, and renewable energy.
Keep up with all things Fly-In on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #NFUFlyIn17. For more information about future fly-in activities, please contact your state/regional Farmers Union office. We’ve also put together a Fly-In app, which includes an agenda, maps, local dining options, speaker bios, and more! Download it here.
Share What You Know About Food Safety!
Calling all produce growers, farmers, and food hubs: how can we help you with food safety? The Local Food Safety Collaborative wants to know. Take their survey here, and be entered to win one of twenty $100 gift cards.
Your responses to this survey will help LFSC enhance food safety knowledge and support local farmers and processors to comply with applicable Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations.
VAPG provides key financial assistance to help producers generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, increase income, and improve their operations’ resilience.
Applications for VAPG are due by January 31, 2018. Learn more about the program here and learn how to apply here.
New on the NFU Blog
New on the Climate Column: Cover Crops & Crop Insurance
When you think about on-farm sustainability, the first thing that comes to mind might be conservation practices like no-till or forage management.
But farmers can also cut greenhouse gas emissions in more traditional ways. Energy efficiency can play just as important a role as conservation practices in farm sustainability. Simple steps, like maintaining machinery and replacing lightbulbs, can add up to huge energy and cost savings.
Small Farm Central provides technology solutions to support CSA member management, online sales, website development, and marketing tools. NFU members receive a 10% discount for website services, the CSA Member Assembler program and FarmFan Services.
Visit nfu.org/join to become a member and start saving today.