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NMPF Co-Op Member Outlines Dairy Needs In Farm Bill Kickoff Hearing In Michigan

Michigan dairy farmer Ashley Kennedy, a member of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, testified on behalf of MMPA and the National Milk Producers Federation at the Senate Agriculture Committee’s first hearing dedicated to the upcoming Farm Bill, the twice-a-decade reauthorization of all USDA programs.

“I couldn’t have come back to the family farm if it were not for many of these programs,” said Kennedy, whose family milks 240 cows in east-central Michigan, at the field hearing held Friday at Michigan State University in East Lansing. “Being a part of the conversation is essential to see a future that reflects opportunity and success.”

Addressing Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who presided over the hearing, Kennedy discussed her perspective as a third-generation farmer on the successes and shortcomings of current dairy policies and programs Congress must address in the next reauthorization. Kennedy thanked the committee, and Chairwoman Stabenow in particular, for overhauling the dairy safety net during the last farm bill and providing producers with access to crop insurance-like risk management tools, which puts dairy farmers on par with producers of other commodities.

Kennedy praised the Dairy Margin Coverage program as “essential to our farm and family’s financial success last year” and called attention to recent improvements that accounted for modest production increases and better reflect dairy farmer feed costs.

Still, the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic for the dairy sector in Michigan and nationwide need to be incorporated into the next reauthorization of federal farm programs, she said in her written testimony. The effects of federal programs on milk pricing deserve special attention, she said. “The combined effects of the change made to the Class I mover in the last farm bill, and the government’s heavy cheese purchases, cost dairy farmers over $750 million in Class I skim revenue during the last six months of 2020.”

The dairy industry, under NMPF leadership, is seeking consensus on a range of improvements to the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, including but not limited to the Class I mover, that can be taken to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for consideration in a national order hearing.

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