Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act, a bipartisan bill that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to hold hearings within six months on the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO). This would allow producers and industry to consider and review proposals that could change Class I skim milk pricing.
“Maine dairy farmers are resilient, and for years they have been weathering the storms of market instability and industry consolidation. The Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act would help restore some stability to this sector by ensuring that USDA holds public hearings to receive farmers’ input on ways to correct the unintended consequences of a pre-pandemic pricing policy. Our dairy farmers have always worked tirelessly to provide high-quality, nutritious products for Maine people, and we must address the obstacles that threaten to prevent them from carrying on that tradition,” said Senator Collins.
“When the dairy pricing system isn’t working for farmers, the economic ramifications are felt across the country. I heard from producers across the industry firsthand during my subcommittee hearing on dairy pricing and the message was clear– our dairy pricing system is inadequate, out of date, and working against producers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “That’s why I introduced the Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act, a bill that would put the power back in farmers’ hands and bring the industry together to build a system that works for the 21st century dairy farmer. This bill is a great first step and I look forward to continuing efforts on broader FMMO modernization.”
“Even before the coronavirus pandemic upended the dairy economy, producers in Vermont and throughout the Northeast were already struggling through years of price volatility, market consolidation, and rising costs,” said Senator Leahy. “Small- and mid-sized farms, the very same farms that have underpinned Vermont’s rural communities for generations, have long borne the brunt of these market forces. As Congress and USDA help farmers recover from the pandemic’s immediate impacts, it’s a critical time to reexamine the federal milk pricing system and ensure it works equitably for all farmers.”
Experts agree – the current milk pricing system is one of the most complicated economic systems in the country and leaves too many farmers without adequate pay, especially as costs rise and competition intensifies. Even before the pandemic, dairy farmers across the nation were facing the challenges of volatile milk prices, as well as increased competition from non-dairy “milk” products. This has led to a substantial loss of licensed dairy herds, with the United States losing almost 40,000 dairy herds since 2003. The Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act would allow dairy producers and industry to consider and review proposals that could change Class I skim milk pricing, while also creating the opportunity for hearings to be held on other areas of the Federal Order system that are in need of reform.
The Dairy Pricing Opportunity Act has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Dairy Coalition, and the Maine Dairy Industry Association.
Click HERE to read the bill text.
Senator Collins has been a longstanding supporter of the dairy industry. In October, she pressed USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for an update on the efforts being taken to protect dairy farmers from harmful PFAS chemicals. In June, she co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution to recognize the important role dairy plays in a healthy diet and the exceptional work of dairy producers in being stewards of the land and livestock. Earlier this year, she co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to combat the unfair practice of mislabeling non-dairy products using dairy names.