Shaheen & Hassan Urge Implementation of Farm Bill Dairy Improvements

April 01, 2019

**Bipartisan group of 38 Senators urge quick implementation to provide relief for dairy farmers across the country**

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the lead Democrat of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) in sending a bipartisan letter urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize the implementation of the dairy provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill. 

As dairy farmers across the country continue to struggle from market instability, the 2018 Farm Bill dramatically expands support for dairy producers, providing flexible, affordable coverage options through the Dairy Margin Coverage program. Early analysis has shown that the improvements would provide much-needed financial support to dairy farmers – providing significant benefits for all operations and up to 5 times as much support for the smallest farms.

“The situation for dairy farmers is urgent,” the Senators wrote. “Although Dairy Margin Coverage is effective as of January 1, 2019, the government shutdown delayed action on 2018 Farm Bill implementation for over a month. During this time, dairy farmers have continued to face market instability and are struggling to survive the fourth year of sustained low prices.” 

“The changes to the Dairy Margin Coverage program make it a much more flexible policy that will likely benefit many of the farmers who chose not to participate in the Margin Protection Program. The USDA should strongly encourage these farmers to consider the Dairy Margin Coverage program,” wrote the Senators.

“In the interim, we request that the USDA invest in outreach, training, coordination with partner organizations, and staffing to ensure that every eligible farmer receives personalized information about the new and improved options,” wrote the Senators.

The 2018 Farm Bill also made several other important changes to address the needs of dairy producers, including: a study on the feed components of the margin calculation, a provision to counteract the disincentive for milk donation, continuation of forward contracting, an update to the Class I pricing formula, and a partial refund or credits from premiums paid under the former Margin Protection Program.

Shaheen worked to improve coverage options for dairy farmers to refund millions in payments made to the USDA from 2015 to 2017 in the 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law in December. Shaheen also worked to include discounted premiums that benefit small dairy farms. A champion for New Hampshire dairy farmers, Shaheen fought to secure changes to the federal dairy support program in response to the alarming closures of many New Hampshire dairy farms. The Dairy Margin Coverage program is a federal program intended to be a safety net for farmers facing falling milk prices and rising production costs. During a September visit to Stuart Farm, Shaheen met with farmers and local stakeholders to discuss the federal dairy program, as well as other priorities for the dairy farming community in the Farm Bill.

In addition to Senators Shaheen, Hassan, Stabenow and Blunt, the letter was also signed by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), James E. Risch (R-ID), Patty Murray (D-WA), M. Michael Rounds (R-SD), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Thune (R-SD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT.), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Joni K. Ernst (R-IA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA.), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.