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February 2, 2014
Early on it seemed the task at hand was to change the attitude
of our entire country, farming operations had long been in
decline, the rural community across America was deteriorating,
and agriculture was being cast in an unfavorable light.
Today's Farm Bill was a compromise, we all understand that, and
although I may have mixed feelings over its' result, I will
admit to being grateful for not having to face another downturn
under those the long failed policies of the past.
While a management tool would seem essential to achieve market
balance during a downturn, something which many of us felt
strongly about, it should be recognized, first and foremost,
“the farmer” had too much exposure. The new margin insurance
program in the Farm Bill was designed to avoid catastrophic
failure during a downturn, it serves to transfer more of the
downside risk from the farmers back to that of “The U.S.
Government”, it is voluntary, and begins by offering the farmer
a minimum $4.00 milk price / feed cost margin; additional
insurance is available, at farmer expense, up to the level of
$8.00 per hundredweight (cwt).
In and of itself this program should be recognized as a real
accomplishment for the dairy farmer, a game changer, it
represents policy change which now includes the farmer by
offering them a means to exist in the face of volatility.
Here in Vermont, in addition to a new retail store, the St.
Albans Dairy Co operative is currently installing new dryers,
this effort to improve efficiency and expand its' product line
of milk powders is a nearly $16 million project, it is also a
substantial obligation to its' producer members.
While it is often difficult to find a bright spot on the
horizon, I would note that House Speaker Boehner's insistence of
having nothing for a management tool in the Farm Bill, and
therefore no reasonable means of control over milk production,
now gives the St. Albans project new meaning.
Finally, on behalf of this country's dairy farmers, and that of
my speaking partner from California, the late Doug Maddox, I
wish to extend a most sincere “Thank You” to those of you who
participated along the way, not only for the considerable effort
which lead to a meaningful Farm Bill, but also for the high
level of consideration and support so kindly offered by many of
you during the past 7 ½ years, it has been a privilege.