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St. Albans Messenger: Welch proposes change to federal dairy program

April 13, 2016
In The News

By Michelle Monroe

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is seeking to change the dairy margin protection program to reflect the variation in feed prices across the country. The margin protection program insures the margin between what farmers pay for feed and the price they receive for their milk. The program provides protection for participating farmers are being paid just $4 more per hundredweight than the cost for feed. 

Farmers have the option of purchasing insurance that will provide support if the margin falls to $8. 

Welch’s proposed change would require the U.S. Secretary of State to use feed prices from each state when determining the margin are receiving, rather than a nationwide feed price. 

“Vermont’s dairy farmers are vital to our economy and represent the best of our state,” said Welch. “Too often, they are hanging on by their fingernails as they endure wild swings in milk and feed prices. This commonsense legislation improves the federal dairy insurance program so that it more accurately reflects the labor, transportation, and feed costs experienced by farmers in our region.” 

Bob Wellington, Senior Vice President, Economics, Communications, and Legislative Affairs for the Agrimark dairy farmer cooperative, said, “The margin protection program was established in the last Farm Bill to provide an income safety net for family dairy farms. Unfortunately, it needs some modifications to meet that goal. This bill will accomplish that.” 

Dairy farmers are in the midst of a second year of low milk prices. The price for whole fluid milk – the milk for which farmers receive the highest level of pay – is projected to be just $17.19 per hundredweight in the Northeast in April. 

The projected price for skim fluid milk is just $9.27. 

The national average dairy feed price for February, as calculated by Bob Gould of the University of Wisconsin, was $7.30 per hundredweight.