House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota pointed Wednesday to multiple provisions to benefit dairy farmers in the new COVID-19 relief compromise package passed by the House and Senate and awaiting President Trump’s signature.
“This compromise package contains strong support for dairies nationwide. Support for product donations, improvements to Dairy Margin Coverage for small and medium farms, additional help for larger farmers that have previously been payment limited, authority to make recourse loans on dairy products, funding for animal health, and investments in meat processing are all programs that will help dairy
farmers, in the near term and in the long run,” Peterson said. “While it’s not perfect, and there are areas within the package that could be improved, it’s a good down payment on the help that dairy producers in Minnesota and across the country need. I’m encouraged that the package got such overwhelming bipartisan support, and I strongly urge the President to sign it into law so we can get these dairy farmers the help the package provides.”
The bill provides necessary cash flow assistance to small- and mid-sized dairies that have grown over the last seven years by establishing supplemental margin coverage based on the difference between 2019 actual production and Dairy Margin Coverage production history. It requires the Secretary to make additional payments to those operations that were previously payment limited to help their assistance be more commensurate with loss, and further enables the Secretary of Agriculture to consider additional direct assistance or purchases in the future.
The bill also provides $400 million to pay for milk to be processed into dairy products and donated to non-profit entities like food banks and other feeding programs. Under the framework of the program, the dairy processor and recipient non-profit develop a plan for donation and distribution, and USDA reimburses the processor for the associated cost of milk. The bill allows USDA to adjust the existing Milk Donation Program payments to match the level of payment provided by this new program.
The bill grants the Secretary flexibility to make recourse loans available to processors, packagers, and merchandisers of dairy products; and it establishes that dairy animals not in production are also eligible for assistance under the bill’s provisions for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) cattle payments.
The bill also invests in animal health, directing the Secretary to invest a minimum of $20 million in animal health and disease prevention initiatives, as well as $60 million to make facility upgrade and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to Federal inspection and be able to sell their products across state lines.