by Dave Natzke
And is there still time for Dairy?
Nov. 2, 2010 – election day – can’t come soon enough, although the prospects for the morning of Nov. 3 seem about as welcome as waking up in Las Vegas surprised to find a ring on your finger and wondering about the long-term commitment of the person in bed next to you. It has been a long season of campaigning, and even here in Wisconsin, where people are generally nice, political messages have taken on a tone more of slander than substance.
Nearing my mid-50s and having some minor “issues,” I’m certain I’d go through another round of having some kind of “scope” rammed up my urethra than to listen to any more campaigning. At the very least, following the medical procedure, my toes eventually uncurl after three days.
While we know when the 2010 political campaigns will end, the calendar on policy issues for dairy is far less certain. It’s appearing less likely Congress will take action on policy-related bills this fall. (Depending on which side of the freestall you’re standing, that’s either a good or bad thing.)
As I write this, USDA’s Dairy Industry Advisory Committee has two meeting sessions scheduled between now and election day.
DIAC chair Andrew Novakovic recently noted “new policy is extremely unlikely to be seriously and broadly discussed in Congress before Fall 2011,” and that industry members must “realistically understand that these are ideas for the next 3-7 years, not the next few months.”
DIAC participant Bob Cropp, University of Wisconsin-Madison dairy economy professor emeritus, said USDA secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to issue preliminary policy recommendations by December 2010, with a final report due by March 1, 2011. Those recommendations could help direct dairy policy contained in the 2012 Farm Bill. And, given the diversity of DIAC membership, Cropp expects both a “majority” and “minority” reports, which will split the consensus.
Meanwhile, dairy policy campaigns continue. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is crisscrossing the country, explaining its “Foundation for the Future” proposal. Holstein USA, the Milk Producers Council and Dairy Farmers Working Together continue to beat the drum for a Dairy Price Stabilization Plan. Still others line up behind S-1645, the so-called “Specter/Casey bill.”
In all likelihood, dairy farmers will be feeding next year’s forages before any dairy policy changes are made. And most people involved in the discussions expect any final, realistic recommendations will not include any budget increases for dairy programs. The early tone set by primary election outcomes certainly points in that fiscal direction.
Dairy producers did gain one policy victory this fall with the approval of weekly mandatory electronic reporting of dairy product prices, a provision actually approved in the 2008 Farm Bill, but never given the finding to implement. USDA now has another year to implement that program. Some dairy producer groups had lobbied for daily electronic reporting, but that became a controversy too big to overcome on the 2010 congressional calendar.
Democracy is a beautiful thing, but it isn’t always pretty. In the end, “dairy” will be much better off if it heals itself before waiting for politics to prevail.
Here’s hoping Nov. 2 comes quickly, and you wake up next to who you wanted to on Nov. 3.
■ To offer your own opinion or response, e-mail Dave Natzke, national editorial director, DairyBusiness Communications, e-mail: email@example.com.
* The GLASS …
… is half full
• California’s October Class 1 milk price is $4.69 more than October 2009. The October 2010 federal order Class I base milk price is up $4.23.
• July 2010 U.S. dairy trade turned in another strong month. Fiscal year 2010 (October 2009-July 2010) exports total $2.76 billion, up 41% from the same period in FY ’09. FY imports total $2.11 billion, down 11%. Exports were equivalent to 12.3% of U.S. milk solids production during the month; imports were just 2.8%.The FY ’10 dairy trade surplus is about $645 million.
• U.S. milk cow numbers in August 2010 were estimated at 9.135 million head, down 24,000 from August 2009 and 9,000 less than July 2010.
• Through the first seven months of 2010, U.S. female dairy cattle exports had already surpassed the total for all of 2009. July 2010 exports totaled 3,267 head; Y-T-D 2010 exports totaled 20,973 head, compared to 16,109 head for all of 2009.
• USDA’s monthly Cold Storage report estimated August 2010 butter stocks at 151.8 million lbs., down 22% from July 2010 and 42% less than August 2009.
… is half empty
• August 2010 milk production totaled 16.16 billion lbs., up 2.7% from August 2009.
• Ethanol, exports and speculators pushed corn futures prices higher. As of Sept. 22, 2011 CME futures contracts averaged $5.09/bushel.
• The August decline in cow numbers is probably attributed to the latest Cooperatives Working Together herd retirement program, which removed approximately 30,000 head. Without it, cow numbers probably would have increased.
• USDA’s monthly Cold Storage report estimated August 2010 total cheese stocks at 1.034 billion lbs., down 2% from July, but 4% more than a year ago. The American cheese inventory, at 624.6 million lbs., was down 2% from July, but 4% more than a year ago.
* Depending on your point of view