Stabenow: Senate Reaches Bipartisan Deal to Improve Dairy Safety Net

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today announced the U.S. Senate has reached a deal to provide immediate support for dairy producers. The bipartisan Senate budget agreement will provide over $1 billion to support dairy farmers. The deal will also return cotton to the commodity safety net and strengthen disaster assistance for livestock and specialty crop producers.

“This is the support that dairy farmers in Michigan and across the country have been waiting for,” said Senator Stabenow. “Thanks to our bipartisan efforts in the Senate, dairy farmers will get much needed relief as they recover from tough economic times. I look forward to building on this progress in the 2018 Farm Bill.”

The current Farm Bill created several new risk management tools to protect farmers from unexpected price drops. The new tool for dairy farmers, the Margin Protection Program has not worked as intended due to last minute budget cuts and implementation problems at USDA. Since 2014, dairy prices have dropped by over a third and dairy farmers have struggled without a reliable safety net.

While other deals have been discussed in the past to provide support for dairy and cotton, none have gone far enough to provide immediate support for struggling dairy farmers. Senator Stabenow worked with Appropriations leaders U.S Senators Thad Cochran and Patrick Leahy to improve both the dairy and cotton safety nets, and led the effort to provide immediate relief for dairy producers.

The Senate proposal announced today would fix problems with the old Margin Protection Program, provide a pathway to new, customizable insurance tools, and set the stage for additional improvements in the Farm Bill. Specifically, this proposal would:

  • Make a Significant Investment for Dairy—Invests over $1 billion into the dairy safety net for family dairy farmers.
  • Increase Affordability—Eliminates or slashes premiums by up to 80 percent for small and medium dairy farms.
  • Target Those Most in Need—Waives administrative fees for underserved and beginning farmers, including veterans and young people.
  • Make Farmer-Friendly Improvements—Makes the program more responsive to drops in prices and increases in feed costs, and triggers payments more quickly.
  • Allow Flexibility—Provides farmers with an immediate chance to sign-up or change coverage levels for 2018 coverage.
  • Create New Opportunities for Insurance—Removes arbitrary limits on developing new dairy insurance tools in the future, allowing for the creation of customizable dairy risk management tools.