California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have strongly endorsed California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross’ call for inclusion of a margin insurance program in either the Farm Bill or any disaster aid measures. In a letter to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Ag Committee and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee, the two senators asked for quick action on a full five-year Farm Bill.
Said the senators, “If any package is to be considered to provide emergency aid to those impacted by the current drought, we strongly urge that you include assistance for dairy producers that is equitable nationally and reflective of the severity of the impact that some producers are facing.”
Acknowledging the political roadblocks the farm bill faces in the house, the senators backed two options offered by Secretary Ross last week.
One is a program that appropriates 30 percent of annual custom receipts at the USDA Secretary’s discretion to assist farmers. In the past, these funds have been used to pay for ag disaster relief.
The other avenue would be passage of a modified version of the retroactive margin insurance program in the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM). Ross said the program should be adjusted by “adding a provision giving dairy producers the option of calculating average feed costs based on prices in the top ten milk producing states rather than on a national average. This modification is necessary to address the effects that this could have on the supply of milk. The loss of significant production capacity would have a devastating effect throughout the U.S.” Ross also recommended that the proposal be backdated to the expiration of the milk income loss program to prevent any gap in assistance.”