Farm Bureau to release recommendations for FMMO’s Tuesday
American Farm Bureau Federation is releasing a series of recommended changes for the Federal Milk Marketing Orders Tuesday. Chief Economist John Newton tells Brownfield the top recommendation from their dairy policy working group is to get a seat at the table for farmers when it comes to rulemaking. “We’ve had federal orders going back eighty years, and believe it or not during this whole time period, dairy farmers didn’t really have a seat at the table. The only folks that could vote on federal order provisions are independent dairy producers and then dairy co-ops.”
Newton says dairy cooperatives can now allow producers to vote independently, but then they lose their ability to vote for the remaining producers. “Our members want to see more democracy in that, and they want to see dairy farmers be able to ask for individual and confidential ballots so that they can be engaged in matters that really impact their farm’s profitability.”
Newton says Farm Bureau is recommending what’s called modified block voting, similar to what the checkoff programs have, but he says the Ag Marketing Agreement Act needs to be changed to allow it.
Newton says the working group also wants to expand price discovery, change make allowances so the risk is shared with the processor, and change fluid milk pricing which might include decoupling Class I from manufacturing milk prices. He says pooling percentages and transportation credits can also be looked at closely by USDA.
Newton says federal milk orders are very complicated, and they got that way in part because farmers were not involved in their creation. He says the farmers who ultimately depend on the milk prices need to be involved in the rulemaking process from the beginning.
Farm Bureau met with USDA Undersecretaries Bill Northey and Greg Ibach two years ago, and they challenged the farm organization to put ideas on the table. Newton says Tuesday’s report should open the conversation, but there is more work to do.