USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s Feb. 26 announcement of a June 17 signup start for the new Dairy Margin Coverage program has galvanized NMPF efforts to aid members in understanding the new plan as farmers begin to decide how to best incorporate much-needed – and much-improved — assistance into business planning.
In hearings before the House and Senate agriculture committees, Secretary Perdue set the following key dates for dairy-program implementation:
- March 18 – Producers locked out of the Margin Protection Program last year because they were already enrolled in Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy policies may begin to retroactively enroll in Margin Protection Program coverage for 2018, pursuant to the program as modified last year by the Bipartisan Budget Act.
- April 15 – Producers will have access to an updated online decision tool to help evaluate their options under the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program, the successor to the Margin Protection Program.
- April 30 – Producers will be able to receive to partial refunds of Margin Protection Program premiums pursuant to a farm-bill provision allowing the payback. Secretary Perdue noted that this provision is happening later than hoped; for the first two years of MPP, producer premium and payment information was recorded by hand rather than electronically, thus creating a need to first re-enter that information electronically.
- June 17 – DMC signup scheduled to begin.
- July 8 –DMC payments scheduled to begin, retroactive to Jan. 1.
Perdue and top USDA officials, at NMPF’s urging, have prioritized DMC implementation as part of the farm bill – and indeed, dairy signups rules will be in place before those of crop programs such as the ARC and PLC programs.
NMPF is also engaging key government leaders who have oversight over the process. When the government shutdown ended in late January, NMPF sent a letter to Secretary Perdue urging USDA to quickly open DMC sign-up while allowing producers adequate time for decisions. NMPF also asked the department to conduct aggressive outreach to producers across the country, using multiple mediums to target not only those who had signed up for the previous program, but also those who had not.
NMPF Outlines Dairy-Program Priorities
NMPF is urging USDA to implement the DMC in a responsive, farmer-friendly manner. This includes:
- Providing producers with their net premium refunds under the old Margin Protection Program in advance of the DMC sign-up, which will be important in many cases to producers’ sign-up decisions for the future.
- Showing significant flexibility to producers who have made changes to their production history due to changes in the structure of their operations, especially due to intergenerational farm transfers or cases where farmers have exited the business and later reconstituted as new entities.
- Allowing producers to pay their premiums in installments, whether they select annual enrollment or the five-year enrollment option.
- Allocating funding to updating the decision tool and other related producer education efforts.
- Incorporating high-quality alfalfa hay costs now required of the National Agricultural Statistics Service into the DMC feed cost formula to ensure that the formula more accurately reflects producer costs.
- Urging USDA to ensure that the Farm Service Agency, which runs DMC, and the Risk Management Agency, which runs the Livestock Gross Margin and Dairy-Revenue Protection programs, are fully coordinated and informed on this point so that producers do not face any hurdles in signing up for both programs – an option now available under the new farm bill — should they choose to.