COMMENTARY: Dairy farmers should ask, "Where's my money?
By Arden Tewksbury, manager of Pro-Ag, Meshoppen, PA
Several years ago, an elderly, slender lady appeared on a TV ad, pounding the counter and shouting, "Where is the beef?"
Now there are thousands of dairy farmers who should be shouting, "Where is my money?"
The money they should be talking about is the extra funds accumulated in the Margin Protection Program that was not paid to dairy farmers. In other words, the losses experienced by dairy farmers were not sufficient enough to use all of the premium money that was paid into the program.
Well, there have been various stories being circulated as to how much extra money the qualified dairy farmers had paid into the fund.
We finally looked into the matter, and discovered there was $75 million dollars of extra funds that were not paid to dairy farmers!
Wouldn't you think that the unused funds should have been returned to the dairy farmers that made payments into the original fund? Not so!
According to reliable personnel within the USDA, the dairy farmers' money was turned over to the United States Treasury without being held in reserve for the dairy farmers. Now, reliable sources say there aren't any funds available to cover any possible losses that dairy farmers may experience this year. Sources say to cover the losses, the Margin Insurance Program will have to borrow money from the United States Treasury.
According to officials of the USDA, the language in the original Margin Insurance Program allowed the extra money to be turned over to the Treasury. Wow! My gosh, wouldn't you think with the USDA using an inadequate pricing in the Federal Orders formula which deprives thousands of dairy farmers from covering their cost is reason enough to leave the $75 million dollars to the qualified dairy farmers who paid the money into the program?
Oh hum. Do you remember all of the editorials that Pro-Ag wrote branding the Margin Insurance Protection Plan as being nothing but an ill-fated, poorly conceived fiasco? At the Keystone Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, no one less than Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, made the remark that he had worked hard with the National Milk Producers Association in developing the program, which he thought was going to be successful. Peterson said that the bill didn't come close to living up to the expectations that the dairy farmers were assured of. Maybe Congressman Peterson and the other Congressional Representatives should begin to listen to the average dairy farmer. Congressman Peterson has always tried to support the average dairy farmer, but in this case, he must have been misled. Instead of a new Margin Insurance Program, Congress should place an emergency $20 per cwt. (hundredweight) floor price on all milk used to manufacture dairy products. In addition, the Senate and House Ag Committees should immediately conduct milk hearings and listen to the average dairy farmer.
Pro-Ag did petition the dairy division of the USDA in June of 2017 asking for a milk hearing. Our request is still pending.
P.S: Reports indicate that in early January of 2018, the new Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue gave the dairy farmers who participated in the original program the option to bail out of the program. There were over 24,000 originally signed into the program, and that number has now dropped down to 5,500.