Ken Nobis: State dairy industry needs Farm Bill

Ken Nobis
Ken Nobis is president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee chose to have a Farm Bill field hearing on May 6th in Frankenmuth hosted by Michigan’s Senator Debbie Stabenow. The Chair of the Committee, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, chaired the hearing. This is a credit to the importance of agriculture in Michigan and provided an important forum to highlight the diversity and economic impact of Michigan agriculture.

Producers welcomed the opportunity to provide input. At the hearing, Darrin Siemen, a fourth-generation dairy farmer from the Thumb Region shared his thoughts about needed improvements to the dairy safety net created in the 2014 Farm Bill. The dairy industry is a critical part of Michigan’s economy, and Michigan ranks 5th nationally in annual milk production. Unfortunately, the lack of an adequate dairy safety net combined with volatility in milk prices in recent years has put increasing stress on Michigan dairy producers, and especially on young farmers like Darrin.

As we celebrate June Dairy Month, it’s important to reflect on the important role the dairy industry plays in our state’s economy – including right here in Mid-Michigan. Michigan Milk Producers Association is a dairy farmer owned cooperative, with about 80 member farms in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties. Together, these local dairy farmers market about 720 million pounds of milk on an annual basis. That’s more than 225,000 gallons of milk produced at MMPA member farms in the tri-county area every day!

At MMPA’s Ovid plant in Clinton County, more than 120 employees process about five million pounds of milk daily, and MMPA dairy farmer members have invested more than $85 million to expand the manufacturing plant over the last seven years. Products made at MMPA’s Ovid plant include butter, nonfat dry milk, cream and condensed skim milk – ingredients that make their way into food products we use every day, like infant formulas, candy, ice cream, pudding, baked goods, cheese, yogurt and beyond.

A strong, dependable Farm Bill safety net helps maintain the viability of our state’s dairy industry and the impact our industry has on our economy. According to a study by the Michigan State University Product Center, the dairy industry contributes nearly $16 billion to our state’s economy. In addition to the economic benefits and job creation at farms and processing facilities, Michigan’s dairy sector is responsible for thousands of additional jobs throughout the supply chain – from distributors, retailers, technology professionals and marketing personnel to local service providers such as veterinarians and feed suppliers.

The current Farm Bill will expire in 2018. As we look to the future, the dairy industry is committed to working with the Senate Agriculture Committee to craft a commonsense Farm Bill with an improved dairy safety net.

The Farm Bill impacts every Michigan resident, every day. Senator Stabenow is the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in other words its highest ranking member from the minority party. She has also served as the Chair of the Committee. Her proven bi-partisan efforts on the Senate Agriculture Committee will continue to benefit Michigan agriculture as negotiations begin on this critical legislation.