Wisconsin Reps. Kind, Gallagher propose dairy pricing, policy commission to address woes
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Wisconsin Reps. Ron Kind and Mike Gallagher introduced legislation Wednesday to establish a Dairy Pricing and Policy Commission to evaluate the plight of Wisconsin dairy farmers and recommend solutions to secure dairy’s future.
Democrat Kind, of La Crosse, and Republican Gallagher, of Green Bay, based their proposal on the fact that Wisconsin has led the nation in farm bankruptcies for the past two years.
That situation underscores the need to identify and implement reforms to provide dairy farmers the tools they need to succeed, Kind and Gallagher said of their legislation, which is available on the U.S. House website.
The proposed commission would include a broad coalition of dairy farmers, processors and other industry experts. Options to be considered might include:
• Coordinate supply chains better during periods of heightened dairy production and low prices.
• Evaluate and identify opportunities for new dairy export markets.
• Consider Federal Milk Marketing Order reforms.
“Wisconsin dairy farmers have been facing difficult conditions for years, with two farms a day closing even before the COVID-19 crisis,” Kind said.
“This week we were reminded that the status quo policies are not working for family farmers — with the nonpartisan GAO finding that USDA has dumped huge amounts of trade aid in response to the administration’s trade wars toward large agribusinesses — particularly in the South — at the expense of our family farmers,” he said.
“It’s clear that we need to take a hard look at the factors creating struggles for our dairy industry, and then take action,” Kind said.
The novel coronavirus undoubtedly has increased difficulties for dairy farmers, Gallagher said, adding, “Problems like low milk prices and declining farm income predated the pandemic.
“Now more than ever, it’s important that Congress does all it can to better evaluate these issues and improve the economic environment for these hardworking men and women,” Gallagher said.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Joe Bragger lauded the proposed commission, saying, “For too long Wisconsin dairy farmers have struggled with low and unfair milk prices. Additionally, this has had a harsh impact on rural communities.
“Farmers pride themselves on continuously improving their businesses. The same mindset should be put in place for the entire dairy economy,” Bragger said.
Farm Bureau members support federal milk marketing reform and transparency in pricing, and they welcome a close look at supply chain needs and possible disruptions such a commission can address, Bragger said.
Similarly, Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden acknowledged the need for such a commission, saying, “We must take a serious look at the factors driving low milk prices and dairy farm loss in Wisconsin, such as oversupply, an uncoordinated dairy supply chain, and an opaque pricing system that is subject to manipulation.”
The commission “will bring key stakeholders together to find ways to move the industry forward on a path to profitability,” Von Ruden said.
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