ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Milk Producers Federation today marked the one-year anniversary of then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s famous observation that “almonds don’t lactate” by reminding the agency it still has not resolved the issue and that citizens who heeded its call for comments with thoughtful responses deserve answers.
“An almond doesn’t lactate, I must confess,” Gottlieb said last July 17, admitting that FDA has been lax in enforcing its own rules on the use of dairy terms on products containing no dairy ingredients. “Have we been enforcing our standard of identity? The answer is, probably not,” he said, while pledging agency action in “something close to a year.”
“FDA’s longstanding inaction on enforcing its own standards of identity is perpetuating the marketing of products using milk and dairy terms when those products don’t match the nutritional content of the dairy products they are imitating,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “Dairy farmers have never called for bans on fake-food competitors, nor have they called for market censorship. They do want the FDA to enforce its own rules defining what a product is and what it isn’t, in keeping with similar standards enforced in other countries around the globe. The clock is still ticking. We are not going away.”
The FDA in January concluded a comment period exploring the issue of consumer confusion regarding the nutritional content of dairy products versus plant-based imitators, with organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics offering evidence of nutritional deficiencies caused by confusion over the contents of plant-based versus dairy beverages while dairy’s detractors submitted thousands of off-topic creeds. After carefully considering comments and noting consumer survey data that clearly demonstrates confusion over nutrition, NMPF in Februaryreleased its own road map offering solutions to how public health, product integrity and free speech could be protected through updated regulations. That Citizen Petition is currently open for comment.
NMPF also supports the DAIRY PRIDE Act, a potential legislative prod for FDA action.
USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey says more than 5,000 dairy operations have signed up for the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program.
The exact number was 5,364 as of last Thursday afternoon. Northey says about 40,000 dairy operations are eligible to enroll, but overall he’s pleased with the number of producers who’ve signed up since June 17. The DMC, created by the 2018 Farm Bill, replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, which many producers didn’t like.
The Hagstrom Report says the new program will make payments to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount, which is selected by each producer when they sign up for the program.
Northey did say the DMC will not solve all the problems of the dairy industry but told reporters last week that it “offers a little bit of support in a challenging time.” The program is retroactive to January first, while USDA is hopeful of making payments soon. The White House Office of Management and Budget is still working on approving all the details of the program.
The National Milk Producers Federation today commended Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for actions intended to provide relief to farmers impacted by significant flooding and rain this spring.
The Department of Agriculture has announced that farmers who planted cover crops on prevented-plant acres will be able to hay, graze, and chop their fields as early as September 1 this year, as opposed to the usual November 1 date, to provide for enough forage for dairy and livestock operations later this year. The Department is also allowing for silage to receive the same treatment this year as haying and grazing.
“This year’s problematic weather and disasters have created a unique set of challenges for dairy producers for whom feed availability is a critical issue,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “We thank Secretary Perdue for taking important steps to ease the feed crisis that farmers are facing in multiple regions of the country.”
NMPF has also endorsed the bipartisan Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters Act (H.R. 3183) introduced by Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Angie Craig (D-MN), which takes similar steps to alleviate the feed challenges facing dairy farmers and others in agriculture. NMPF looks forward to working with Congress and USDA to address this challenge.
WASHINGTON (June 14, 2019) – House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Chairman Jim Costa of California issued the following statements in response to today’s announcement of open signup for the 2018 Farm Bill’s Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.
“The purpose of the Dairy Margin Coverage program is to ensure dairy farmers have an adequate safety net when they need it,” said Peterson. “We put this program together in the farm bill to enable farmers to get their revenue from the market in those years when the milk price is up, but still provide a backstop in the event that milk prices come down or feed costs go up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: dairies should sign up their first 5 million pounds of production history the $9.50 coverage level. I know times are tough, but this program is going to provide some real help.”
“Dairy farmers were on our minds throughout the entirety of the farm bill process,” said Costa. “Now that the program is being implemented, it is my goal to get information out to producers on Dairy Margin Coverage, as well as the other risk management tools available as soon as possible. DMC improves on the old Margin Protection Program in a number of ways including making it clear that all operations can enroll up to 5 million pounds of production history in tier one, regardless of their overall farm size. DMC also effectively improves catastrophic coverage by setting $5 margin protection at only half a cent per hundredweight, no matter how much production history is enrolled. As Chairman of the Subcommittee overseeing implementation of the dairy provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, I appreciate USDA’s recognition of the issues confronting dairy farmers in all corners of the country right now, and I look forward to working with USDA as they continue their implementation of this program.”