Milk commission formulates strategy for federal farm bill

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copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

BERLIN — The newly revived Vermont Milk Commission held its fourth meeting on Friday and considered, among other topics, ways to encourage people to consume more milk, and a possible adjustment to the way milk prices are calculated to take better account of how milk is actually used.

At its most recent session, the Legislature passed a law requiring the commission to meet by October to offer guidance to the Vermont congressional delegation as it participates in drawing up a new farm bill in 2018. Federal farm bills, which run for five years, set policy for all aspects of the nation’s agricultural economy, and the Legislature wanted to make sure Vermont’s voice is heard on issues affecting the dairy industry.

The milk commission had not met for six years before October, and the terms of all members expired during that time. Governor Phil Scott and legislative leaders appointed nine new members, and the commission set to work.

At their latest meeting, members heard from Paul Ziemnisky, senior vice-president of Global Innovation Partnerships.

Mr. Ziemnisky is a branding and marketing expert working for Dairy Management Inc., a trade association funded through the U.S. Dairy Promotion Program, which gets its money from mandated checkoff fees on dairy products and federal tax dollars.

He said he is working to increase milk consumption. Mr. Ziemnisky said overall milk use has been increasing, but less fluid milk is being consumed.

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Farmers see price for organic milk plunge

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copyright the Chronicle November 8, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

The price paid to Vermont organic milk producers dropped by $6 per hundredweight over the past year, according to a report provided to the Vermont Milk Commission by the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.

The Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP), the dairy cooperative that markets Organic Valley products, has told its Vermont members it will pay $28.80 per hundred pounds of milk this December. At the same time last year the price was $34.80.

According to the producers alliance, the average price paid by CROPP during 2016 was $35.68 per hundredweight. This year it is estimated the average price will fall to $30.59.

By spring the price paid farmers will drop another $2, CROPP has told its farmers.

For conventional farmers, who spend around $20 per hundred pounds to make their milk and are seeing milk prices a little over $17 a hundredweight, even the lower price might seem like a dream come true.

But the producers alliance says New England organic dairies’ break-even price is around $35 a hundredweight.

Members of the organic cooperative have quotas based on a farmer’s purchase of preferred stock in CROPP. Should a farmer produce more milk than it allows, the co-op will pay $20 less per hundredweight for the overage.

Perhaps the hardest hit farmers are those transitioning from conventional to organic production. They have been told they will not have a buyer when they produce organic milk.

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Vermont fights for a voice in the farm bill

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copyright the Chronicle October 11, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Federal farm legislation is due to be passed next year, and Vermont wants to have its voice heard in the writing of a bill that could mean life or death for the state’s dairy industry.

The Vermont Milk Commission has been revived after six years of inaction to give voice to the state’s farmers and processors. The nine-member group met in Montpelier on September 26 to collect information in order to make recommendations to the state’s congressional delegation for items that should be included in the 2018 farm bill.

According to Secretary Anson Tebbetts of the state Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, the commission, was raised from the dead for that purpose.

“Vermont needs to have a strong voice,” Mr. Tebbetts said about the meeting. He said the plan is to gather as much input from the state’s farmers as possible in order to offer the best advice to federal legislators.

The Chronicle was not present at the meeting, but spoke with Secretary Tebbetts and reviewed a tape of the gathering and draft minutes.

Members of the state’s agricultural community are especially concerned about the dairy provisions of the bill, in view of the unusually long stretch of low milk prices.

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